Pip brings Christmas spirit to museum
An evening of food, music, celebration and spectacle was capped off by a historic Allentown Christmas tradition during the Pip the Mouse reception at the Liberty Bell Museum at Zion’s Reformed Church of Christ, 620 Hamilton St., Allentown.
The Rev. Joshua Knappenberger, museum director, began the Nov. 25 event by welcoming and thanking reception attendees. Guests enjoyed drinks and a buffet prepared by museum board members and volunteers.
The Flutations provided entertainment for the evening, playing a selection of holiday songs throughout the reception in addition to the final carol.
Natasha Pelak, a member of Allentown Flag Day Association, said she was excited to be at the event because of the historical significance of Zion’s Reformed Church of Christ.
“I love this place,” Pelak said. “This is the place where we stored all 11 bells during the (American) Revolution. There’s a lot of history here. It’s rich with it.”
Supporters of the museum and the Pip the Mouse program were honored with certificates of appreciation by Dr. Dennis Blankowitsch, museum board president, for dedicating their time and effort to these institutions.
Richard and Radell Ludwig, of Allentown, were among those presented with a certificate for supporting and volunteering with the Liberty Bell Museum for more than 57 years.
The Ludwigs were heavily involved with establishing the Liberty Bell Shrine at the church with Radell’s father, Dr. Morgan D. Person, who headed the shrine’s establishment committee.
“We want to make sure we’re keeping an accurate part of our history alive here in Allentown,” Richard Ludwig said about their efforts to excavate and preserve the location where the Liberty Bell was hidden during the Revolutionary War.
Knappenberger also reflected on the historic nature of the church and city.
“The museum and the church itself are points of pride for the community,” Knappenberger said. “Everyone living in Allentown is a part of what happened here. They are a part of history, and I am proud to be a part of it, too.”
After the certificate presentation, the second event of the night commenced as guests filled the museum for the season premiere of “Pip: The Mouse Before Christmas,” performed by puppeteers Mark Keeler, of Coopersburg, and Patrick Vance and Stephanie Burke, museum manager, both of Allentown.
The premiere marks the 17th season of Pip’s show at the Liberty Bell Museum.
Created by Dr. George R. Creegan and his wife, JoAnn, Pip the Mouse first debuted in 1962 at Hess’s Department Store at Ninth and Hamilton streets, Allentown, and entertained Christmas shoppers for decades until the store closed in 1996.
The puppets, animatronic characters and set were then donated to the Liberty Bell Museum in 2003.
The museum’s stage has carried on the legacy of the Creegans’ holiday show, with the only intact Pip the Mouse set and puppet show still in existence. Keeler has been with the Pip program since 2003.
“It’s a lot of fun and an honor to be a part of the local puppet tradition,” Keeler said.
Vance also said he felt an association with Pip the Mouse as one of the show’s puppeteers.
“It’s part of my deepest memories of childhood,” Vance said, just before a practice performance. “Some of my earliest memories are of standing and seeing the Pip show in the Hess windows. It connects deeply with my memories of my family and Christmas.”
Harrison Knerr, of Allentown, has attended the reception for several years.
He always looks forward to the puppet show as it reminds him of family trips to Pip’s former home during the holidays.
“I remember we used to see it up in the window at Hess’s,” Knerr said. “We took all our kids to see it, and now we come to the church to see it and have enjoyed it every year since.”
Knappenberger looks forward to keeping “Pip: The Mouse Before Christmas” alive for years to come.
“Pip the Mouse stands by himself,” Knappenberger said. “He’s a local Allentown institution.
“We get to keep telling the Christmas stories and memories of the people and children who remember the original performances at Hess’s, and I don’t think you’ll find another holiday show like Pip.”
“Pip: The Mouse Before Christmas” runs until Dec. 31 with show times 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Free shows run 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19 and 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 22.