Welcome to ... Crown Tree village
By Linda Vanderwerf Staff Writer It starts on Thanksgiving Day. Janice Jones of Willmar sets up the sturdy table full of holes, built by her late father, Gerald. Then her mother, Dorothy, unwraps each ceramic building and hands it to Jones, who f...
By Linda Vanderwerf
It starts on Thanksgiving Day. Janice Jones of Willmar sets up the sturdy table full of holes, built by her late father, Gerald.
Then her mother, Dorothy, unwraps each ceramic building and hands it to Jones, who finds the perfect spot for it.
Cords thread down through the holes in the tabletop, plugged into several power strips on the floor.
Then Jones finds a place for the farmers, ministers, snowmen, animals and frolicking children she packed away months before.
In the middle, a train track surrounds a musical animated skating pond.
Hours spent fluffing cotton batting around the entire scene complete the picture.
The little world Jones creates even acquired a name when she purchased a little building named the Crown Tree Inn. So, welcome to the village of Crown Tree.
Jones, who cares for her disabled mother in their home, has cobbled together most of the display during trips to Good Will, the Bible Mission Thrift Store and after-Christmas sales. Gifts from friends have helped add the finishing touches.
It's proof that a person doesn't have to spend a lot of money to put together a display to delight her mother and friends who visit.
Dorothy doesn't talk much anymore, but she greatly enjoys the Christmas village and the other decorations. There isn't enough room on the table anymore, so several churches are on a nearby end table and on top of the television set. A set of smaller-scale buildings is on a table on the other side of the room.
It all started in 2000 with the skating pond, which was a gift to Dorothy, Jones said.
Not long after that, she and a neighbor were at Holm Bros. hardware store, and she saw a little church. Then she bought a barn and a candy store at Wal-Mart.
Nearly everything else is a gift from a friend or was found in a thrift shop, Jones said.
"It's from five years of just looking," she said. In the middle of summer, she'll sometimes find a building for $2 or $2.50, she said. Sometimes, she pays as much as $5.
The ability to spot the right pieces and place them in the right place might come naturally to Jones, who worked for years at the Hobby House craft shop in downtown Willmar.
She pointed out some of the landmarks of her village. It has a number of churches. "That one's for the Catholics, because I found these three little nuns," she said, pointing to a figurine standing in front of the church.
She decided the first church she acquired was the Presbyterian, her family's religion. The church with its spire makes her think of church suppers the family used to attend at country churches, she said.
"That reminds me of the fun times we used to have," she said.
The village has a school, a train station, a barber and a doctor's office. A department store dominates the back of the table. There's a livery in one corner -- "they give carriage rides" -- and a farm, including animals and a woodpile, in the other corner.
An old plastic church, which still lights, comes from her parents' first Christmas together, more than 55 years ago, Jones said. It's on top of the television.
Over the years, she has added many little details. In front of his office, a doctor carrying his bag is getting "a little smooch" from his wife. Under a tree near the farm stands a doe and fawn. Not far away is a wolf with two pups.
In front of the school, children play on a playground that includes a shiny silver slide. A little girl in a pink parka gets a ride in a wheelbarrow from a big brother.
Beside a house with the sign "Mr. and Mrs. Santa," the Clauses themselves share a kiss.
A couple years ago, Jones said she almost skipped a year, but then a friend gave her a new church.
"When people give you stuff during the year, you almost have to put it out," she said, so out it all came once again.
"It's so surprising, when people come they are so happy to find me another piece," she said.
Since some of their neighbors haven't seen the latest version of the village, she plans to have a Christmas coffee party for friends.
Her mother enjoys the display, and many other people seem to, as well, Jones said.
"If this kind of stuff helps, it helps," she said. "Some friends, they just like to come and look at the lights."