The Carrs’ Christmas Village|Openwood couple’s living room is winter wonderland

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 30, 2008

A village with 47 buildings isn’t big — unless it’s in your living room.

George and Louise Carr know.

The Carrs are collectors of “Snow Village,” Department 56 buildings, homes, figures and accessories. Around Thanksgiving each year, the Carrs put their village up for the holidays.

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George Carr has been collecting village pieces for about 15 years. It all started when the Carrs’ daughter, Sheila Rees, gave George his first village house. It happened to look just like Louise’s grandparents’ home. Then George got a church and a school, and he was off.

“Now I get them for birthdays and Christmas — I haven’t had a real gift in 15 years!” he said, feigning indignation, and then laughed, “I don’t know that I’d want anything else.”

The Carrs look forward to setting up their village each year for the Christmas season. Neighbors in Openwood Plantation, especially children, love to visit the Carrs’ Christmas village and check out all the little items that give it its charm.

“Holiday special,” reads the movie theater marquee, featuring “Dreaming of a Snowy Village” and “Miracle On One Village Place.” Musicians on the bandstand — Louise’s favorite piece — play “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Gus’s Drive-In is selling ice cream, and along the snowy streets you can find a roller rink, radio station, wedding chapel, bank, Village Town Hall, the St. Anthony Hotel and many other shops, homes and buildings.

Atop the “mountain” at the back of the village is what the Carrs call their cabin in the woods, overlooking the Linden Hills Country Club and some of houses on the golf course. Santa Claus and his reindeer circle overhead.

Around the buildings and along the streets are smaller detail pieces — trees, cars, park benches, kids, carolers, street lamps, neighborhood policemen, frozen ponds with twirling skaters.

Assembled, the collection fills three 6-foot tables plus the top of an upright piano — the mountain. The tables and piano are covered with white cloth, and then laid with custom-made Styrofoam forms which make the village look like it’s laid out on snow-covered streets carved into the side of hills.

After everything is set up and wired, fluffy plastic “snow” is sprinkled over the streets and buildings.

This year it took the Carrs about eight hours to set up the village. Most of the buildings are electrical, though some use batteries to light the windows, power the skaters, musicians, Santa sleigh and other moving pieces and keep the movie marquee and hamburger stand lights blinking. The set-up uses four power strips.

“It’s fun putting it up, but, oh, it’s a job taking it down!” George Carr said.

Department 56 is based in Eden Prairie, Minn., and manufactures many different sets of collectibles, including Snow Village, Heritage Village and New England Village. The company began making Snow Village pieces, which are ceramic, in 1976, with a first issue of six houses. Since, Snow Village has grown to include more than 225 pieces, including accessories.

Several new pieces are added to the line each year and others are retired. The company’s Web site features a store locator link for current pieces, while retired ones are available through online resale markets such as Ebay and at shows and collector’s events, Rees said.

Collecting Department 56 pieces is a passion not just for the Carrs, but nationwide, with online message boards devoted to chats, show and selling events, bulletin boards for finding specific pieces and even a “Top Ten Signs You Are Villaging Too Much.”

If the Carrs “village” much more, they’ll have to open a subdivision in their kitchen, or else move their living room furniture to another part of the house. As it is, the couch now has to be pushed closer to the fireplace to make room for the tables.

“They really do love this village, and get excited every year setting it up,” Rees said. The Carrs welcome visitors to come and see it.

A dedicated bargain hunter, Rees is responsible for much of the gift-giving that has built the village, frequently finding new items on Ebay. She’s a resident now of Kentucky, but makes a point of coming to Vicksburg around Thanksgiving each year to help set up. This month, she brought in seven new houses that ended up around the golf course. Rees also found the Web site for ordering the Styrofoam pieces.

Originally from Mount Olive, George and Louise Carr moved to Vicksburg in 1961 and to Openwood in 1976. He is retired from General Motors Acceptance Corporation.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at