LUVERNE, Minn. -- It's the holiday season, and as we close in on Christmas, a Rock County town has plenty to celebrate.
Every town celebrates Christmas in its own way. In Luverne, the signs, and the nutcrackers, are everywhere. But what you see on the street is only the beginning.
"We just reached a goal. We have more nutcrackers in our museum than we have people in Luverne," said 92-year-old Betty Mann.
To be exact, there are 5,012 nutcrackers inside the Rock County History Center. More than 3,000 of them belong to Mann, who once kept them in her house.
"I had shelves everywhere except above my front and back doors," she said.
For Mann, it all began in 2001. She had a tough Christmas that year, so she decided to buy something that would make her happy.
She bought that first nutcracker at a Cracker Barrel in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
From there, she traveled the country. While on vacation she bought nutcrackers and memorabilia in nearly every state.
"I have a shirt at home that says 'Crazy Nutcracker Lady,'" Mann said.
It's a title she's proud of. A few years ago, the city was looking for a way to bring visitors to Luverne, and a consultant suggested that Mann's jaw-dropping collection relocate to the history center. The move worked, and the town played along.
"We've had people from as far away as Florida, you know, they come from all over," said Wendel Buys with the Rock County History Center. "Most people are just kind of in awe."
From 7 feet, to 7 inches, the nutcrackers are displayed in categories. And just when you think you've seen them all, you find more.
There are pirates, police, Santas and the "Wizard of Oz." There's a little something for everyone. Many are native to Europe - where centuries ago the wooden soldiers originated.
"We have eight cabinets here that are all from Germany," said Mann.
If there is a nutcracker that needs a home, rest-assured they'll make room.
"When they come in, children especially, their eyes get big and, 'Oh my goodness,' you know, they look around and they can't believe it," said Mann.
Nutcrackers are considered a sign of good luck. Local artists painted small versions of nutcrackers, and are in the process of creating bigger ones that will be displayed around Luverne.
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