For the last 25 years or so, Denise and Jim Madeiros have assembled an ever-growing collection of miniatures to put together a village with a seasonal touch.
They have painted most of the buildings, or had their kids or grandkids paint some. Friends have also contributed to the assemblage.
“We started with about six buildings that we painted ourselves, and every year we added a few more, and a few more,” says Denise. “It just grew and grew.”
It’s grown over the years to the point where it takes about 100 hours to put together, and another 50 hours to take it down.
This year, for the first time, they are opening up the display, Christmas on Cascara, to the wider community.
They started small by hand-painting ceramic buildings. For Denise, it was a blue farmhouse, and it remains her favourite. Jim, who is retired Coast Guard, likes the marina they have assembled. He’s even fashioned wood from an old lobster trap into a dock, and they have added personal touches to each of the boats.
“All the boats we’ve named after the grand-kids,” says Jim.
That’s just a small part of the display, which includes street after street of shops and homes, along with other features like a ski hill, and one of the most popular features – the model train that travels through one section.
“The kids love the train,” Jim says.
There are many buildings with flashing lights, or pieces like ferris wheels or carousels that play Christmas tunes.
“You always see something different every time you look at it,” Denise says.
Jim always makes it a bit of hide-and-seek for the kids too, with the first one to spot a polar bear winning a candy cane.
Many of the buildings they have fashioned after local landmarks or buildings belonging to people they know.
“There’s lots of local homes,” says Jim.
The couple has paid a lot of attention to the fine points, as a closer inspection of some of the buildings shows. For example, if you look through the window inside a pool hall, you’ll see someone in a Santa suit at a pool table.
The reason they opened up their display to the public this year is they now have more space to share the experience with children in the community.
They have even had some school groups come by for a look.
They are also raising funds. Admission is by donation, with all proceeds going to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Canucks Autism Network or the Comox Valley Food Bank. They will also take food donations.
The display is open 4 to 7 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. The location is 2860 Cascara Cres. in Courtenay. For more information, call 250-897-5643 or 250-218-7177.