- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Sisters Kathleen Hindt and Gladys Long have spent the past two months assembling a room-sized Christmas display of miniature homes, people, trains, trees and just about anything else found in a country village.
The display, recreated this year in the St. Joseph’s Church hall, located on Route 5 in Morganza, is open to the public for a small fee, which goes to support the parish.
The sisters, who both live in Mechanicsville, came up with a name for their town Villages of the Northern Woods — that is a nod to the church where it is displayed.
“This was originally St. Joseph’s of the Northern Woods,” Hindt said of the historic Catholic parish.
More than 200 ceramic houses are scattered throughout the miniature village, including pieces from collections like Dickens, Sarah Plain and Tall, Lemax and Kincaid.
Hindt said that their once-modest collection of miniatures continued to grow over the years as friends and relatives gave them as gifts. Eventually it became too large to display in her home. She said she often wished she could have the collection on display to the public so people beyond her family could enjoy it. In 2007 the sisters set up the village at the Forrest Hall Farm and Orchard as a way to share their love of the Christmas season with others.
The display even then spanned from rural farmland to suburban streets and featured frozen lakes, a waterfall and a carnival. It has since grown in size and detail.
Now the village features a parade with soldiers, dogs and miniature clowns.
There are trees made from pear tree branches as well as small evergreen trees cut from an old artifical Christmas tree.
There are replicas of farms that look like scenes from St. Mary’s County. And there is a gas station, which Hindt turned into Ridgell’s, along with a hospital representing MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. There is a new half-pipe skateboard ramp with an automated figure.
And, of course, there is a train that circles the town.
Hindt and Long made up search-and-find activities for children and other visitors. The ‘‘I Spy” game allows people to look both for easy and well-hidden miniatures in the scene.
They also suggest for an extra challenge for visitors to spot duplicate items (there are at least 10, they said).
In the display Long and Hindt attempted to teach moral lessons through stories played out by the miniatures. None of the homes doors are locked, the sisters tell visitors, because the village residents are trusting of one another.
They made the snow-covered mountain a foot higher this year. The centerpiece is made from styrofoam, spray insulation and other materials.
“Our main connector is toothpicks,” Long said.
Hindt said there are a lot of wires hidden throughout the 11- by 24-foot display. Hindt’s husband, Duane, did most of the wiring, which is all neatly hidden under the table.
They moved all of the miniatures, tables, wiring and other equipment to the hall at the end of September. The sisters have worked on the display nearly every day since then, and just finished about two weeks ago.
“We’ve still been shopping” just to find odds and ends to fill out the display, Long said. For instance, they cut off the guns held by small plastic Army men and painted the figures to look like Christmas revelers.
“I think it’s a beautiful display and it’s a lot of fun,” the Rev. Keith Woods said. The St. Joseph’s pastor said that when Long, who is a parishioner, approached him about the display, he was happy to offer the space at the renovated old school building that now serves as the church hall. Long and some of her siblings attended class there before the school closed in 1963, she said.
Woods said that the Christmas display is particularly appealing to children because of the many moving pieces and bright displays, but that anyone of any age could enjoy it.