The Christmas village that just . . . kept . . . growing for Detroit Lakes couple

Detroit Lakes residents Ted and Florene Zitzow have a little hobby that has kept them busy since they moved to Pelican Landing in October. Their Christmas village, with more than 170 unique pieces, has taken over most of the senior living facility's community room.

The Christmas village display that Pelican Landing residents Ted and Florene Zitzow have set up in the Detroit Lakes facility's community room has taken up most of the available table and counter space, as well as a few spots on the floor. The display contains over 170 pieces, each of which is unique. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

There's a dancing snowman that spins like a top. Nine working train sets of varying sizes. A fully functional, miniature carousel: The only part of Ted and Florene Zitzow's Christmas village that doesn't light up, play music, or move around in some way is the ceramic Nativity scene that was made by Ted's former mother-in-law (Florene is Ted's second wife).

"It's the oldest thing in here," said Ted of that Nativity scene, adding that it's "at least" 25 years old. The rest of the village's 170-plus pieces have been purchased or otherwise acquired over the past 15-20 years.

"We got married seven years ago, and she (Florene) had about six-seven pieces up in a cupboard, but they weren't painted," said Ted, so he spent the next couple of months finishing them up before adding them to the collection.

"Every year, we've bought three or four more," Florene said, adding that they've found them at rummage sales and in shops across the country during their travels.

"Each piece is unique — there are no duplicates," Ted said of the collection.


A couple of years ago, the couple acquired 24 new pieces while visiting family in Missouri — and had nowhere to store them when they arrived at their winter destination in Texas, so the boxes stayed in the car until the couple got back to their home on West McDonald Lake. That home, about equidistant from both Dent and Vergas, is where the Zitzows lived until making the move to Pelican Landing two months ago.

As soon as they obtained permission from Pelican Landing operations manager Auna Sigdahl to begin putting up their Christmas village in the community room, they got to work — and now, it's pretty much taken over every square inch of table and shelf space, as well as a few spots on the floor.

In fact, they had so many pieces stored in the trailer they brought with them that they had to leave some of them there.

"The family says we're supposed to be downsizing (the collection)," Ted said — but instead, they've added four more pieces this year.

"We thought, 'Why not?'" Florene added with a smile.

So why spend so much time setting up such a large display? "It's been good for us to have something to do," Florene said, adding that she enjoys viewing the pieces as well.

"We're probably going to keep it up until the first week in January or so," Ted said, adding that they want to make sure any fellow residents who want to take a look can see the village at least once before they begin packing up the pieces and putting them back in the trailer for another year.

"Hopefully some people from outside (Pelican Landing) can come in and see them too," he said, though COVID-19 visitor restrictions have limited opportunities for doing so. But of course, there's always next year.


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