ALL LIT UP: Christmas village takes over couple’s living room

The “rustic” portion of Vicki and Larry Buffin’s Christmas village setup, featuring miniature-sized logs with real wood cut from the couple’s backyard, is pictured. (Pioneer photo/Tim Rath)

COLFAX TWP. — What began as a small inheritance of Christmas village houses from a deceased aunt has ballooned into a collection of more than 140 houses and countless other holiday accessories for Larry and Vicki Buffin.

They aren’t done collecting, either.

For most of the year, the Buffins browse yard sales and classifieds for new additions to “The Buffin Angel Village.” During Christmas season, the couple is thrilled to play host to their two adult children and four grandchildren, who take special joy in browsing the display on their visit.

“When the grandkids come, the first thing they’ll do is walk along everything and say, ‘Grandma, did you change anything? Grandma, can I turn the train on?'” Vicki Buffin said Thursday. “It’s great to see them interested in this. I would not be surprised to see them continue this when I’m gone, but it’s totally their call. I mostly just want to pass on this feeling I have during Christmastime.”

Vicki Buffin explained the idea for the village first started roughly five years ago, when her aunt, Maxine Loll, passed away. Vicki had long admired her aunt’s small collection of Christmas village houses, and sought to start a collection of her own.

“I said, ‘It’s just so pretty. Maybe (we should get) just a couple more.’ And then a couple more turned into a couple more,” Vicki Buffin said. “When I set it up for the first time, my husband brought some houses out and I said, ‘That’s everything, right?’ And he said, ‘We haven’t even started yet.’ And that’s when I knew I had a big collection.”

After receiving the houses from her uncle, Vicki enlisted Larry in starting a collection. Now, it’s one of their favorite hobbies to share in together.

“People are trying to get rid of them after Christmas, and they sell them cheap. We’ve found top-of-the-line brands, houses that go for $200, for $5 or $10,” Larry Buffin said. “We’ll drive to get them, too. We’ve driven as far as Traverse City to pick up a house — it’s a nice day trip.”

Christmas village homes, once owned by Vicki Buffin’s aunt Maxine Loll before her passing, are now on display at Buffin’s home in Colfax Township. (Pioneer photo/Tim Rath)

The Buffin Angel Village is actually a series of several villages, plotted across the couple’s kitchen, living room and sunroom. Since the Buffins started putting together the village, they have built additional shelving units above hallways and doorways to accommodate everything.

Most of the villages have some sort of a theme attached. There’s a farm village, a central park area, a high-end city center with attractive homes, a commercial center with shops and diners, a rustic corner with caves and bears, and other “neighborhoods.”

Each village does not merely include houses, rather, a huge collection of cars, horses, people, bridges and lamps are scattered throughout each one.

Some areas have extra-special touches, such as the miniature logs in the rustic corner, carved from real wood taken out of the Buffins’ backyard.

American flags are a commonality in each area — a tribute to Vicki’s father, a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Each area also has a police station, fire house and a church, “to watch over the people.”

When the electricity is turned on, each area turns into a bonafide winter wonderland.

An electric train runs through central park, circling a ceramic, tabletop tree Vicki made herself roughly 25 years ago. Piano versions of classic Christmas tunes play through small speakers. White lights illuminate piles of cotton “snow,” decorated with glitter, strewn throughout the entire display.

“Sometimes, I just sit and picture what could happen if these little houses were real. What if the people were real? I just love it,” Vicki Buffin said. “Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I never thought it would turn out like this.”

A portion of “The Buffin Angel Village” is pictured Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Tim Rath)

The display usually gets put up right around Thanksgiving — a process that lasts between 60 and 70 hours, stretched across about 2 1/2 weeks. It lasts until around Valentine’s Day.

The Buffins don’t want to keep the pleasure of viewing the village all to themselves and their families. They want to get the community involved.

Vicki and Larry will open their home, located at 15763 18 Mile Road, in Colfax Township, east of Big Rapids, to anyone from the public who wishes to check out their Christmas village from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Cookies and punch will be served.

The couple say they are happy to accommodate anyone who can’t make it to the open house on Wednesday — just call them, at (231) 796-1352, to ensure they can put their nine Pomeranian dogs away well before guests arrive. People with allergies to dogs are advised to keep them in mind before they visit.

“I want people to see it. When I was a kid, this opened up a whole new world me. To me, it’s magical, and I hope people feel the same way,” Vicki Buffin said.

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