With a click of a button, Tammy Butler’s living room comes bursting to life.
Inside the Oak Harbor home is a bustling village, complete with skating rink, countryside, farms and even a ski hill. The tiny town is 22 feet long, on multiple planes and only exists in December.
Butler began the tradition with her children around Christmastime in 1995.
“It gets bigger every year,” she said.
She and her sister, Tina Curtis, are already planning on how to expand again next year. Curtis said she saw other Christmas villages on the news and thought they paled in comparison to her sister’s. On one side of Butler’s bustling village, there’s a small “hill,” with a church, school house, playground and houses, comprising the residential area.
Down the hill, is the downtown area. Little townies, frozen mid-motion, ride a Ferris wheel, buy hot chocolate as a policeman directs traffic at an intersection. In the middle is a tall, lighted clock tower.
Horse-drawn carriages and the train that circumnavigates the town are the only allowable modes of transportation besides walking, Butler said. It was a rule her late husband put in place for the villages, so she’s continued to abide by it through the years.
He helped create the roads out of heavy card stock and spray paint that makes a surface look like it’s made of rocks. He also built steps and a platform where the nativity goes, which Butler pointed out is always the first scene she creates each year.
It takes her about 10 days, working about four hours each day, to complete the not-so-tiny-anymore tiny town. Though she had started with her children, they’re all grown and living across the country, so she does it herself now.
But they always call to ask about the village, she said.
It sits upon a plywood table, with holes drilled in the top to hide the string of cords that keep the houses and street lights lit. Power strips run, unseen, underneath the table, and she can turn everything on or off with one click of a button.
She has 75 buildings and an immeasurable number of villagers, but she’s always keeping an eye out for new additions. She said it’s harder to find pieces at stores and she mostly has to order online or go to yard sales to find items she doesn’t yet own.
This year, she added the skating rink, lighthouse, toy store and hunters’ lodge. The lighthouse looks over her countryside, which spreads out the buildings more among more trees. Farm animals in large pens stand outside barns in this region of her village.
Up the hill, Mr. and Mrs. Claus tend to their reindeer, and children glide down the ski hill in sleds. Butler said her cat used to sleep on the ski slope, but the threat of a squirt bottle has kept him away from the village over the years.
If visitors look closely at the village, they might even spot the one piece that’s a little out of place. Every year, she hides a little T-Rex, which is re-hidden every time he is found.
He’s not as easy to spot as one might think, nestled among the complicated array of streets, villagers, animals and buildings.
“Every time you look at it, you see something new,” Curtis said.
Some don’t understand the monumental effort Butler puts into the project each year, for it only to last one month. For her, it’s always worth it.
The presence of the warm lights and soft Christmas music playing is comforting, she said.
“It’s a connection I have to family memories,” Butler said.