It Takes a Village to Get in the Spirit
by Richard J. Bocklett
Dec 17, 2008 | 1714 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Now in its tenth year, Charlie and Ann Krieger’s “Christmas Village” is a seasonal spectacular for Queens.

Located at 77-18 76th Street in Glendale, a 24 by 8-foot open garage, lawn, and backyard have been transformed into a visual and audio delight encompassing a miniature panorama of Currier and Ives-like country-life landscapes and Americana scenes complete with electric trains, moving and talking Santas, and amusing eight-foot-high, inflatable holidays figures.

The big attraction for all ages is the ever-growing village display, which includes a town, farm, and boat basin scenes, gingerbread castle, dance hall, movie house, ice house, diner, church, antique shop, Fourth of July house with fireworks, and the Christmas tree salesman.

The mobiles include tram cars going up and down the mountain, ice skaters circling the rink, strollers strolling through the park, and walking reindeer. Bears, deer, and moose are seen on the mountainside. All in all, there are hundreds of figurines, over 50 ceramic buildings, and countless trees.

“This year, I added the carnival scene, the Ferris wheel, tea cup displays, houses, and more lighting,” Charlie explained. “And, unlike last year, when the garage was hit by the heavy flooding, everything is safe and sound.”

Kids pose for pictures by the vivacious, five-foot-tall Santa Claus offering season’s greetings, sample the complimentary candy canes, listen to Santa’s Talking Railroad Box message, and gleefully peer at a platform full of mobile two-foot-high Santas each exhibiting a different personality. There’s the snoring Santa with belly moving up and down, the pensive Santa working on his gift list, the dancing Santa, and the relaxing Santa with his feet soaking in a basin of hot water.

The Christmas Village is a labor of love project and a gift to the community, an idea that Charlie started working on about 15 years ago.

“When I first started, only one or two houses on the block had light displays, now it’s almost the whole block,” he points out with delight. “Every year, more and more.”

A passage lined with small houses, trees, wooden soldiers, and reindeer light ornaments and a 8-foot-high inflatable Christmas bear leads to the backyard.

In the back yard, visitors are captivated by a big plastic Santa globe in which Santa and his reindeer rotate as the snow continually falls. There’s also an eight-foot-tall, inflated snowman, reindeer, sleds, statues, and a lot more multi-colored lights. When asked about the electric bill, Charlie’s eyes roll up to the sky as he succinctly answers, ”Pretty high.”

The public response to the village makes it all worthwhile.

“The people love it, especially the kids,” says Charlie. “They jump with Santa and laugh with the row of talking Santas.

“Yesterday, was a real cold day,” he added. “Nevertheless, we had about 40 hearty souls visit. We’re doing good because the neighborhood regulars always drop around but when it’s in the newspaper, we get people from around the borough.”

Charlie starts setting things up about two weeks before Thanksgiving – first in the garage and then in the backyard. His Village is open daily through the first week in January and the lights go on at 5 p.m. and stay on until about 11 p.m.

Dennis Wolf, a visitor from neighboring Ridgewood, marveled at the rich displays.

“I see a lot of work goes into this,” he commented. “The trains and the Village are the most interesting. I never saw so many items in a small garage.”

Did it offer him inspiration?

“I don’t have that much ambition to do it myself, to go through all this,” he chuckled. “I’ll leave it to the professionals like Charlie,”

Dawn, another visitor from Ridgewood, said, “I come here every year because this is the most elaborate Christmas scene in the neighborhood. The Santas and animated figures make people smile. It puts you in the Christmas spirit.”

Charlie offered advice to would-be Christmas Villagers.

“Start small and gradually make it larger,” he said. “And, remember, some of these items are very expensive.”

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