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Behind the scenes: Nutcracker in the Castle, Paine Arts Center

Paine Art Center and Gardens
Posted at 7:00 PM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 20:00:12-05

OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — The Paine Art Center's Nutcracker in the Castle has become one of the most popular holiday attractions in Northeast Wisconsin over its 16 years of existence, but it didn't get that way by accident.

In order to bring the intricate recreation of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet to life, a lot of work behind the scenes must be done.

The sprawling exhibition covers the entirety of the Paine Mansion and consists of 20 different settings, 89 Christmas trees and "tens of thousands" of individual decorations.


"It's a huge production, definitely something that takes a whole team," said Paine Director of Events Kaytlyn Oelke.

Oelke explains that it typically takes a crew of 10 decorators working 40 hours a week for three to four weeks, to set up the exhibition, and says visitors take notice.

“I love the kind of magic it brings to Oshkosh and the community," Oelke said. "All of our trees are super intricate, I don’t think we get a single person that doesn’t comment on how they wish their house looked like this.”

The Paine and its staff can't make all the magic for their more than 20,000 expected guests happen on their own. They hired Tamara's the Cake Guru to provide sweets and Valley Academy of the Arts to dance for portions of the guided tours.


Valley Academy dancer Meredith Plamann, who performs the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy among others, says the Nutcracker in the Castle performances is a highlight of the year for her classmates.

“It’s really something that I think all of us look forward to every single year," Plamann said.

Plamann, who is a junior in high school, has been dancing with Valley Academy for 13 years and says training for the performances is very demanding.

“I’m here for about five hours every Saturday, at least 12-15 hours every week of training," said Plamann.

She adds that seeing the joy her performances bring people, makes it all worth it though.

“I think it’s just such a great performance opportunity cause you can see their faces, you can see all the little kids so excited to be here," she said. "I think it’s just really magical for people."

Nutcracker in the Castle is scheduled to run through Jan. 9, 2023. For more information and to buy tickets to performances, visit