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Elvis the elf leads the way for this year’s 12 Gifts in 12 Days

December 15, 2018
John Smalley is editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Even the most Grinch-like, bah-humbug-ers generally soften up a bit this time of year as the holiday season falls gently upon us — we hope — like a light snow, the kind of snow with big, soft flakes that glisten and spark wistful memories.

Sometimes the Christmas season can feel more like a raging blizzard, the kind of snow that comes at you sideways, with tiny, ferocious flakes that seem to seek out and sting any unprotected skin and spark only our innate need for self-preservation.

At the Wisconsin State Journal, we hope that our annual 12 Gifts in 12 Days project evokes the former experience and not the latter. The fifth year of our “let’s do something special over the holidays” initiative launches today and will wrap up, of course, on Christmas Day.

For our 12-day celebration, we have no partridges in pear trees, no lords who are leaping, and no swans who are swimming.

But, better than that, we have Elvis the elf — more on him later — and 11 other cool holiday-themed offerings. We’ve got a coloring contest for kids, special cookie recipes in the Taste section, and a full-page graphic that will explain the odds of a white Christmas in Madison and beyond.

But, wait, there’s more. We’ve also got Phil Hands, our editorial cartoonist, whose gifts to our readers this year include a two-page colorful spread featuring the characters from Hands’ original weekly cartoon strip “Mendota Marsh” that allows readers to turn some of our newsprint into ready-to-use wrapping paper. Also from Hands, a one-of-a-kind cartoon poster — suitable for free downloading and printing — that captures outgoing UW-Madison band director Mike Leckrone in an engaging way to mark the beloved band leader’s last year with the baton in his hand.

Hands also created a full-page Bucky Badger outline that kids can color to design their own “Bucky on Parade” as part of our coloring contest.

Included in this year’s 12 Gifts project are two prominent local writers. Celebrated children’s author Pat Zietlow Miller is writing for us this year, as is noted novelist Chloe Benjamin, who wrote “The Immortalists,” which appeared on many 2018 best-seller lists.

Joining those two authors in this year’s project will be retired State Journal reporter George Hesselberg, who will continue his long-established winter holiday story, working in collaboration with artist Connie Lovett.

We also have two engaging videos this year — one from behind the scenes at Children’s Theater of Madison’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” and another of various UW coaches and other familiar Badger faces collectively reading the quintessential holiday tale, “The Night Before Christmas.”

And then there’s our little friend Elvis the elf. He’s a creation from the mind of State Journal graphic artist Jason Klein, and he’s making his world debut in today’s paper on Page A6. Elvis is there, along with a few dozen other items to search for in a Where’s Waldo-like Downtown scene at Christmastime that is Madison-based but not quite to scale.

For the young and not so young, Klein’s graphic will challenge readers to find Elvis, and Santa, and Santa’s list and many other items, some that make sense and some that are just silly and fun, like a polar bear watching the Polar Plunge.

And for eagle-eyed readers, the finding-Elvis fun will continue throughout the 12 Gifts project. Each day, starting today through Dec. 25, we’ll hide Elvis in an advertisement somewhere in the paper. When you find Elvis, simply complete the contest form that will be printed on Page 2 every day and send it in for your chance to win one of 12 $25 Metcalfe’s gift cards that will be awarded.

So, that’s a lot of holiday action coming at you in the next 12 days. We think it’s a great lineup, and we hope you do, too. Again, think gentle snowfall, not raging blizzard, and enjoy the season to the fullest.

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