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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

When Christmas collectibles take over

Dec 07, 2016 08:21AM ● By BEACON Senior News

Extravagant lights, delectable dishes and manger scenes are items you’re sure to see on display this holiday season. But two local women put their own twist on traditional holiday décor with incredible collections guests have to see to believe.

Lily’s World

A replica Durango Silverton train clickety-clacks along its tracks at the base of a homemade ski mountain molded from a creative combination of leftover boxes, a white tablecloth, artificial snow and lights.

In the small village at the mountain’s base, people gather at Grandmother’s house while skaters take turns on an outdoor rink.

These specific scenes—a mogul-filled ski mountain, a passenger train circling evergreens, a family party at Grandma’s and a skating rink—are only a few of the dozens assembled by Grand Junction’s Lily Fitch. More than 1,000 individual pieces go into her holiday display, which fills two walls and half a room.

She calls it “Lily’s World.”

For the past 25 years, Fitch has told a Christmas story through her display. Made up of Department 56 collectors’ items, it grows every year and takes nearly seven weeks to complete.

As she thinks about how to build the display annually, Fitch, 60, puts herself in these idyllic winter wonderland scenes, asking herself questions, such as: Where would the bakery go? Where would the Christmas carolers stand?

From the ski mountain and neighboring village, where the display always starts, the Christmas tale transitions into a golf course and crazy Christmas corner in homage to Clark Griswold’s character in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

From there, the display moves into the main town, which spans several blocks and bustles with businesses, a church, shoppers and even a fire station with tiny pieces of laundry drying on the roof.

An ocean harbor where replica cruise ships are anchored in a blue sea near a busy beach is next to the coastal town. Going on cruises is a favorite pastime of Lily and her husband, Bill, so it’s one of Lily’s favorite scenes in the display. In fact, Lily’s detailed work with the ocean scene garnered her an invitation to speak at a national collectors’ convention in Arizona next year.

The sheer size and intricate display makes Fitch a popular hostess for her friends.

Although Christmas consumes an entire room in the couple’s home from August through January, Fitch said her husband doesn’t mind. In fact, she added the golf course and numerous classic cars parked around the display to honor his hobbies. His car club, the Grand Junction Knights, comes to visit the display, too.

“At least my hobbies are less expensive [than Bill’s],” Lily said.

At least for now.

Fitch has already purchased several new Department 56 pieces for next year. They’re stashed in a room, still in the box, because they were bought after the display was conceptualized.

“I already have ideas for next year,” she said with a smile.

Nutty for nutcrackers

Karen Stone got her first nutcracker in high school 50 years ago, but it wasn’t until seeing the ballet that she was hooked.

Over the years, friends and family members gave her nutcrackers as gifts. Today, she owns an army of 590 nutcrackers.

During her working years as an elementary school teacher, fellow teachers asked her to present her collection and The Nutcracker story to their classes.

By the time she moved to a new classroom at Dos Rios Elementary, Karen had collected about 100 nutcrackers. At Christmastime, she told her fourth grade students about her collection. When they asked to see them, Karen put up a display in her classroom and integrated The Nutcracker story into the curriculum. Students would choose which nutcracker to write about and read their reports to the class.

After she retired, Karen set up a permanent display of nutcrackers in all shapes and sizes in the den of her home.

“It’s great having space in my new home to display some of them all year instead of just Christmas,” she said.

Her most unique nutcracker is of Clara, the young heroine of the story, which was given to her by a fellow teacher. A favorite of many who view her collection is a large soldier that plays music from the ballet and opens up to display all the characters from the story.

Karen continues to do presentations on her collection, though her audience is mostly comprised of adults. She tells them about the nutcracker’s German origins and how they really were created to crack nuts. She said many Germans would keep them by their fireplaces to ward off evil with their sharp teeth. During World War II, American soldiers brought them home as souvenirs.

Karen said if she ever feels the need to downsize, she would donate her collection to the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, Washington, or try to sell them. Until then, she will continue to share her collection with others.

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