Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2001

A miniature Christmas

December 19, 2001

Vi and Leon Cairns love to play Christmas 12 months a year.

"It started with one building this one right here," Vi Cairns says, pointing to a two-story house situated among many others in the Cairns' elaborate Christmas village.

That was in 1990, when she and her daughter were shopping for a Hallmark centerpiece for her dining room table.

During the past 11 years, the Basehor couple has added on at an annual rate of more than 10 buildings and houses a year. Many were gifts from family and friends, at Christmas, on wedding anniversaries and birthdays.

So instead of a centerpiece for one table, the Cairns now have more than 100 lighted buildings, numerous vehicles and a train track running on 10 tables in a room of their walkout basement. Parks, including an ice-skating rink that plays holiday music, are positioned strategically throughout the villages.

And while this wonderland centers on the Christmas season, the Cairns leave it up year-round to the delight of young and old visitors.

They have everything from a farm with cattle to city hall.

"That's way out in the country," Vi Cairns tells a visitor, chuckling.

And she points out the clouds that she and her daughter painted on the wall.

"These are just our toys," she says, flashing her easy smile, her eyes twinkling. "We're a couple of kids."

As she talked and toured, her husband busied himself, working to fix a glitch in the railroad that chugs through an industrial district, past several houses and a commercial center.

"I've still got work to do, but I have fun doing it," he said.

Leon Cairns also ensures that the buildings light up.

"I did all the wiring and all the plug-ins," he said. "It all works in a series."

The Cairns, who have been married for 56 years, enjoy sharing the joy of their village with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, along with their expansive circle of young friends. Even though their electric bill shoots up in December, they wouldn't think of not turning on the village.

"We're pretty proud of it," Vi Cairns said.

"It's nothing out of the ordinary," her husband added.

But the village, like the couple who lovingly care for it, is extraordinary.

And there's no indication the collection will dwindle anytime soon.

"You'll have to come back after Christmas," Vi Cairns said, "and see what I got and where I'm going to put it."

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