Wooden cutouts still a Christmas tradition

Charlie Brown.

Oscar the Grouch.

Big Bird.

101 Dalmatians.

Cookie Monster.

Anyone who lived in Warren from around the mid-1970’s forward knows that one of the Christmas staples in Warren were the wooden cutouts that would appear on the lawn of a home at the corner of East Fifth Avenue and Conewango Avenue each year. The home, owned at that time by local Dr. Albert Turbessi, was always decked out with large, wooden cutouts featuring characters from cartoon favorites.

Every few years, said Director of Public Works Mike Holtz, who grew up in that neighborhood, you’d see a new character created and added to the mix. When the Turbessis moved out of Warren, said Director of Public Works Mike Holtz, the cutouts were given over to the city. They’ve been stored for many years, said Holtz.

The cutouts were cleaned up around six years ago, said Holtz, when Dr. Turbessi was the grand marshal of Warren’s Christmas parade. They were placed around different storefronts for the Christmas walk that year, said Holtz.

The cutouts have become a sort of community property, said Holtz, which is why they aren’t part of official city displays. “It’s nice to have people be able to use them and borrow them,” said Holtz. This year, Praise Fellowship church in Russell has been using the Charlie Brown character cutouts for a children’s ministry program that will be going on through the first of the year, said Praise Fellowship Children’s Pastor Amy Knopf.

Lucy, Patty, Marcy, Schroeder, and a newly minted Charlie Brown and Snoopy, said Knopf, have been helping get youth at the church asking questions about the nativity story. “We’ve been doing programs this whole year that have had themes,” said Knopf. For December, she said, the goal was to have a theme that the younger kids hadn’t really encountered yet. Knopf said she brought it up to the core group of youth that help her focus lessons, and they agreed that using the Charlie Brown Christmas to talk about the nativity was a great fit.

“We thought, what a great way to get the kids talking about the nativity than to imagine what questions the Peanuts gang might ask about the nativity if they were here,” said Knopf, who added that clips from Charlie Brown, the Charlie Brown Christmas movie, and the cutouts, among other interactive elements, helped bring the nativity story to live for the children’s ministry this month. It was extra special, she said, to be able to incorporate something so quintessential to the Warren Christmas experience for the adults at the same time.

Knopf said that the four lessons that have guided this month’s nativity discussion, that youth helped come up with, included “who was the king at the time of Jesus’ birth,” “who were the wise men,” and “why did they bring the gifts they brought?” The final lesson in the Charlie Brown Christmas installment at Praise Fellowship, said Knopf, will be driving home the lesson that “Jesus didn’t come to take over King Herod’s kingdom, but to start his own kingdom within our hearts. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Knopf said that some of the iconic cutouts will be upstairs in the sanctuary through the first of the year, and some will be downstairs. As families work out their celebrations throughout the remainder of the month, Knopf said, Praise Fellowship is excited to be able to make them available to a wide audience of Warren natives and visitors alike. She said that the Christmas Eve service, which will be held on Sunday, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m., would be a great time for anyone interested in getting a look at the cutouts to plan a visit. “Come early or plan to stay a little after the service and check them out,” said Knopf. “We know that the Christmas Eve service is a big draw for the community,” she added. “We’re excited to get to share Charlie Brown and the Peanuts cutouts with the community as well.”

Praise Fellowship is located at 7451 Market Street Extension in Russell. For more information and service times visit praisefellowship.net or find them on Facebook.