The Berks-Mont News (

Gilbertsville business displays painted sleigh to spread holiday cheer

By Digital First Media

Thursday, December 28, 2017

GILBERTSVILLE >> What’s Christmas without jingle bells and sleighs?

A Gilbertsville business asked that same question recently and decided to contribute to the community’s Christmas spirit in a unique way.

“Pennsylvania Dutch folk artistry is very much alive and thriving today, and we wanted to use this sleigh to foster even greater appreciation for such an important part of our local culture,” says Lisa Romero, owner of The Swamp Door, 2030 Swamp Pike, Gilbertsville.

The Swamp Door Antiques & Curiosities recently commissioned local folk artist Nancy Stauffer, of Gilbertsville, to turn a two-person sleigh into a series of paintings featuring nostalgic scenes from winters past and the art piece is becoming a local hit.

“We had hoped the sleigh would get some attention. But Nancy’s nostalgic interpretation of bygone winters is wowing so many people, we’re starting to plan a future where we preserve and donate the sleigh to a local museum so future generations can enjoy it,” said Romero.

Stauffer is a retired hair stylist and grandmother of three who has experience creating thousands of fine folk art pieces over the course of the last 20 years. Stauffer says this is the largest piece of work she has ever completed. She worked on it throughout the summer and was inspired by the designs of two of her contemporaries: folk artists Helan Barrick and Jo Sonja Jansen.

“This has been an exciting, fun project,” Stauffer says. “And it’s been great getting so much wonderful feedback from the community. But for me, I’m just thrilled to know this isn’t simply a Christmas decoration … It’s a gift to the people who live here. I love that.”

The sleigh required significant repairs before it was painted so Stauffer enlisted the help of her husband, Laverne Stauffer, a retired maintenance employee of Kraft Foods in Allentown. In addition to the repairs, Laverne also weather-proofed the piece so it could remain outside and accessible to the public throughout the holiday season, Romero said.

“Our goal is to display this sleigh every year from Thanksgiving through early January,” Romero says. “To watch people’s delight in seeing it, and hear them share heart-warming stories of Christmases they remember from years ago, makes it all worthwhile.”