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Le Roy resident working to bring joy and a bit of nostalgia to Christmas in the community

By Howard B. Owens
jim delooze cinnamon beat joy of christmas le roy
Jim DeLooze
Photo by Howard Owens

First and foremost, says Jim DeLooze, it's about joy.

Namely, the joy of Christmas, the joy of magic, the joy of wonder.

And then what he's planning in conjunction with St. Mark's Church in Le Roy will also help local businesses by, hopefully, bringing more visitors downtown during the Christmas season.

DeLooze is heading up what he's calling The Joy Project, a plan to bring diorama to St. Mark's based on the old-time holiday radio show, "The Cinnamon Bear," and well as set up displays that recall wonderland that was once Sibley's Department Store in Rochester.

"Step one, is just put people in the Christmas spirit," DeLooze said, "make them happy and really wanting to see it. Number two is that it will be a draw. I plan on drawing people from anywhere between Rochester and Buffalo here to Le Roy. Business is a numbers game. If you own a restaurant, and you've got an additional 1,000 people who come into town, in a community, that's 4,000, that's gonna help your business."

He presented the plan to Le Roy's village trustees at their regular meeting on Wednesday, not to ask for the assistance of the village but to inform the community of the project.  He is hoping for volunteers to step forward to help and for residents to make donations.  

There are two main components to the project.  First is the diorama based on "The Cinnamon Bear."

"The Cinnamon Bear" is an old-time radio show, a serial that was launched in 1937 by a Los Angeles-based marketing company to help department stores attract more of a Christmas crowd.

In an era before corporations owned nearly all of the nation's radio stations, many programs were syndicated to independently owned and operated radio stations. The Cinnamon Bear was picked up by stations in every state, with 26 episodes, each with a cliffhanger ending, airing each evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The program is the story of Judy and Jimmy Barton, who travel to the world of Maybeland in search of their missing Silver Star tree ornament.  They are helped along their way through various adventures by The Cinnamon Bear, an assistant to Santa Claus.

The story has proven enduring. There are still radio stations that carry the show each year, and now, of course, it can be streamed online.

"Tony is the son of the person that built it," DeLooze said. "He said he and his mother were very impressed with my knowledge of old-time radio and the fact they thought it was a lot better going to a home here where people would be able to come in and see it free of charge rather than having to pay in an amusement park to see it."

To go along with the diorama, DeLooze is moving one of his other hobbies out of his basement -- his annual Christmas build of a display meant to model the Christmas presentation of the old Sibley's Department Store in Rochester.

For decades, area residents flocked to Sibley's during the Christmas season to take in Toyland and the Magic Corridor and see that animatronic elf along with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

For years, DeLooze has been building his own train set to create a miniature version of what Silbey's offered, and in recent years, he has been posting photos and videos on social media to show his progress and the completed project.

He's always gotten positive feedback for the video, including from a friend in California who once told him, "'Jim,' he goes, 'I gotta tell you, I was in a bad mood when I clicked on this,' he says, 'but literally halfway through, I was smiling and in the Christmas spirit.'"

And that was exactly what Jim said he likes to hear.  He wants to know he's helping to spread joy.  And that is what he hopes to do this year and for many years to come with The Cinnamon Bear and the Sibley's display.

"Our church was really looking for a way to participate in Winterfest," DeLooze said. "Hopefully, this will continue year after year. It will become a Christmas tradition that parents and grandparents will look forward to bringing their children to see, and that's why I've actually wanted to do this project since the early 1980s. That is just about the time that Sibley stopped doing it. My son got to see it. My daughter never got to see it. And I just wanted to be able to bring something like this back so my kids and grandkids can enjoy this."

To pull off all this joy, DeLooze said he and the folks at his small church will need additional help from the community, such as volunteers from community groups as well as community donations. He said the project will cost from $7,000 to $9,000 and that $3,000 has already been raised.  He has a list of items for people to donate and what volunteers can do to help.  For more information, email Jim DeLooze,

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