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Published December 10 2010

It takes a Christmas village

Christmas is a time when we sort of accept that we’ll go a little overboard.

We’ll have that second (or third) helping of pie, put up a Christmas light display that’s visible from Canada or go caroling in subzero temperatures.

For Jean Rasmusen, it’s setting up a small town inside her home in Motley, Minn., and that’s not all.

With the help of family, she decorates her home with miniature buildings, farmsteads, a casino, a wharf with boats, moving skiers, a child making a snow angel, carolers moving around a Christmas tree, a grist mill, a drive-in restaurant and more. The display includes a model train, a North Pole area and a Gingerbread town. There are also numerous nativity scenes belonging to her mother.

Things started small “and just kind of got out of hand,” joked Rasmusen, who owns Northside Floral in Wadena, Minn.

The display stretches through “the whole house, basically,” she says.

It’s taken some time for Rasmusen to put her collection together. To the best of her memory, she began it in the late 1980s. And it grows each year.

That’s a lot of fragile items. And all that handling of breakable objects means the exhibit hasn’t been without incident.

“But Super Glue works well,” says Jean’s mother, Janet Rasmusen, who helps with the display.

And she’s not the only one who pitches in to make the Christmas spectacle possible. Her sister, Ann Schoon, and Schoon’s three sons lend a hand as well.

“It’s a family thing here,” Janet Rasmusen said.

But even though it’s a family affair, they don’t keep it to themselves. Each of the past several years, there’s been an open house for the display, and Janet Rasmusen estimates that a typical such event would draw “probably around 40, 45 maybe” – sometimes more.

Jean Rasmusen enjoys “being able to sit around and visit” with those who make their way to the open house events

“They’re all pretty amazed, I would say,” Rasmusen said. “Little kids enjoy it a lot.”

And, if you’re going to have an open house, it wouldn’t be Minnesota nice to let the guest leave empty-tummied. So Janet, Jean and Schoon take up the oven duties of this holiday shindig.

“We love the baking,” Janet said.

This year’s display isn’t ready to go just yet, but Jean Rasmusen does plan to continue the tradition. They haven’t yet nailed down a firm date for that yet.

But, whatever the date, it’ll be a visual treat for those who stop by the Rasmusen home.

“You can’t explain it,” Schoon said. “You’d never imagine it.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734