By Karen Brainard
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Carolyn Robison’s living room is emptied of furniture and filled with approximately 500 children and adults.
They ski, skate, sled and ride in bumper cars. Children make snow angels and sit on a teeter-totter while adults carol and stand outside shops. All around, lights
are twinkling in the hundreds of homes, stores and other buildings nestled among snow-flecked trees.
It’s a magical scene that comes alive at the push of a single button.
“This is my joy,” said Robison, looking over her elaborate miniature Christmas village.
The Ramona resident said she has no idea how many pieces are in her village.
“I never counted it. I’m sure it’s over 1,000. I probably have 200 trees alone,” she said.
The winter wonderland fills her 13-foot by 12-foot living room and is arranged on six- and four-foot tables covered in white tablecloths, snow blankets and artificial snow.
Robison started setting up the village on Oct. 1. Spending two to three hours a day, it took her about six weeks to complete.
“It’s my passion, no question,” Robison said.
She began collecting the Christmas village pieces in the late 1980s and kept adding more. Her collection is a combination of Dept. 56, Lemax from Michael’s, and pieces from Kohl’s and the former Mervyn’s department store. Each year she adds more. Her additions this year included a Home Depot, a Walmart, a bowling alley and mountain climbers. A new police station sits next to a casino.
Giving a tour of the display, Robison showed the train running around the tracks by the downtown area; a zoo and a park; a children’s area with a school and orphanage; a farm and barn area; and a carnival complete with a Ferris wheel, fortune teller, carousel and duck pond game. The East Coast and the West Coast are depicted on opposite sides with blue bases for water, boats sitting at docks and a lighthouse perched on a rocky bluff.
The back of Robison’s village display rises about three feet in tiers against a backdrop of nighttime blue with silver stars. Overlooking the village are churches and a nativity scene.
Robison pointed out figures in a holiday religious processional — pieces that came from Portugal, the country of her ancestors.
“A lot of these are gifts,” Robison noted, adding that friends and family members often bring pieces back from their trips.
The village even includes the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink, a graveyard next to a church and a working miniature ski lift at the base of the “mountain.”
“I try everything to be to scale,” said Robison.
In order for the lights to shine, the train to run, the carolers to sing, the skiers, sledders and skaters to slide, and the other mechanical items to work, Robison has connected and hidden all the cords and power strips under the tables. Using one connection for a remote that turns everything on at once, Robison said, “I just daisy-chain it all from there. The cords are a logistical nightmare,” she added lightheartedly.
Her family members — daughter Jennifer, son JR and his wife, Courtney, and her husband, Ed — contributed in various ways to set up and complete the village.
Three-year-old granddaughter Melody Rose especially loves the school and all the figures and accessories around it, said Robison.
“She knows the ones she can touch. She’s real good about it,” the grandmother said.
On Jan. 1, each year, the village comes down.
“All this has to be put away before tax season starts,” noted Robison, who has a tax preparation business. “We have it down to a science. It goes pretty quick.”
Once the village is put away in a storage shed, the work doesn’t immediately end, as remnants stay behind.
With a laugh, Robison said, “We’re vacuuming snow for a week.”