DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — For the last 25 years, Ted Zitzow, who was a custodian at North Dakota State University for nearly 40 years, has been collecting churches, barns, schools, general stores and more.

When Zitzow strolls around the halls of his retirement home at Pelican Landing in Detroit Lakes, he isn't taking a walk, he's actually going to work.

By flicking a set of switches, he brings a Christmas village full of lights, snow and trains and 16 -houses to life. He has more, but they didn't fit in the room.

"You won't find a duplicate," Zitzow said. "It took a week and a half. Taking down takes longer because you have to put them in a box."

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It's been a hit at his retirement home, especially when the trains start rolling.

For the last couple of years, Zitzow didn't set the village up. The 200 buildings and seven trains are packed away at the lake. But this year, during a pandemic, he seems to have picked the perfect time to share a little of his Christmas past with others.

"It is just the idea of it, I guess," Zitzow said. "(It) just keeps me going, I guess you could say."