with gallery: Christmas wonderland display to open to the public this weekend in Pittsfield Township
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Anyone who has ever wanted to visit the North Pole will have the chance this weekend. Pittsfield resident Charles Elkins will be opening up his home to share his “Christmas Winter Wonderland” display, back for its 10th year. The free event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m., Dec. 15 and 16 at 33 E. Bemis Road in Pittsfield Township.
Filled with snow-covered mountains, moving trains and enough Christmas lights to keep you dazzled for days, Elkins’ displays create a magical Christmas fantasy that everyone wishes could come to life.
His four displays, ranging from a 4-by-8-foot Nativity Scene to his grand 8-by-16-foot “North Pole,” each create a different festive scene, filled with individual details. In one corner is a little boy on top of a hill looking for his sled. In another area, a traffic jam builds up amongst an autumn back drop of orange and red trees. In a different scene, a group of moving ice skaters glide around the rink, situated amid hundreds of individually-carved and painted Styrofoam trees.
“I want it to look professional,” Elkins said. “I don’t like to do sloppy work.”
Elkins, 74, started the display as a hobby in 2002. The retired tool-and-die worker used to put his talents into his outdoor Christmas lights but said eventually the trees got too tall and the lights became too much of an effort to put up and take down each year. So he decided to take his passion for Christmas indoors and create a display that could stay up year round, and it has grown ever since.
Elkins said each display has taken anywhere from nine to 11 months to make, working up to five hours a day. The time is in the detail. A significant portion of the displays are made from carved and painted Styrofoam, including mountains, hills and more than a thousand individually-crafted pine trees of varying heights. The work also comes from the assembly of several lines of moving train and car tracks that bring the displays to life and lead the eye around the villages’ unique shops and homes, also often hand-assembled and painted.
“To me it’s not work, but it is still time-consuming because I like doing it,” he said.
His wife, Patricia Elkins, said she mostly stays out of making the displays but is supportive of the project and will help her husband in buying some of its pieces.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”
The displays not only required a lot of time but also a lot of money. Since he started, Elkins said he has spent about $23,000 on materials, many of which he bought in Frankenmuth or sent away for from Nebraska. To him, it’s all worth it.
“When you get it done and it comes out like you’ve seen it in your vision, [that’s the best part],” he said.
Aside from creating the displays, Elkins said he also enjoys making people happy, especially the children at the nearby Bemis Farms Childcare and Preschool where he works as a part-time maintenance worker. The children have enjoyed a private visit to the displays since their beginning and return every year. Assistant preschool teacher Geneva O'Leary said her students especially enjoyed the snowy scenery and the moving cars and trains.
“We had a great time,” she said. “He’s got a lot of really unique things.”
Those who have visited Elkins' displays before will enjoy a few new treats this year, including a red “brick” fireplace, a few more holiday characters and a 2-by-4-foot replica of Elkins' childhood school in West Virginia.
But Elkins said he doesn’t plan on adding too much more and said there is not much room left to grow. His wife, however, has other ideas.
“Every time he says he’s done with it I say, ‘Yes, I know,’” she said smiling. “I’ve heard that before.”