By Anne Eickstadt


Several inches of snow made Santa feel right at home as the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum held their annual Visit with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 4.

“This is the 10th year that we have had Santa at the museum,” Judi Zangs, Museum General Manager of the Poplar Grove Aviation Education Association, said. “It is a free event for the community. We welcome people from all over.”

The visit with Santa was held in the museum’s 1937 hangar from the Waukesha Airport in Wisconsin. Originally built by the Federal Works Commission during the Great Depression, the building was about to be demolished when it was rescued, disassembled, transported to Poplar Grove, and reassembled to become the first building of the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum campus.

Other buildings include a 1927 Hangar from Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, Wis., where Tom Hamilton of Hamilton/Sundstrand began building airplane propellers.

The museum also has a 1931 hangar from Capitol Airport in Springfield, Ill; a 1927 auto dealership from Green Lake, Wis. known as ‘Slim’s Garage’; and a 1926 Sunoco gas station acquired from the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Ill.

“Our collection tries to show the public how the aviation and automotive industries grew up together and how they changed the ways people worked and played,” Zangs said.

The Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum is located by the Poplar Grove Airport.

“We are on Poplar Grove Airport property,” Zangs said. “But, we are a separate, non-profit organization. The airport generously donated 12 acres to us. We have school programs, field trips, and various events throughout the year. Last year, we had over a 100 people here for Santa’s visit. Over 40 children saw Santa. If the weather is nice, Santa will fly out of here in a Twin Beech aircraft. He won’t be flying today. We have cookies, cider, and hot chocolate. We offer an opportunity for children to write to Santa Claus. We are also collecting for the Boone County Food Pantry. The food pantry is so well organized for the Boone County community residents who need it.”

The museum does this as one of their outreach opportunities to Boone County.

“This is our way of reaching out to the community,” Event Coordinator Trudy Konopka said. “Everyone loves to see Santa. We love to see the smiles on the kids. Compared to the malls, this is a more intimate setting.”

The Belvidere North Choraliers also were at the event to entertain guests.

“We’re glad that Santa always brings the music,” Chorus Director Dr. Philip Vermillion said.

The Choraliers sang several songs, including one in which they performed the entire “Nutcracker Suite” in three minutes. This was 7th performance that weekend for the Choraliers.

At the end of their performance, Santa Claus appeared.

“Over 100 people are here today,” Zangs said. “Most of the seats are filled and people are standing in the aisles.”

Information on this and upcoming events at the museum can be found online at


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