North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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December 14, 2012

Randy Coleman's Christmas creation takes on life of its own

GARDENDALE — The traditional Christmas village, featuring lighted miniature houses, toy trains and tiny skaters on ice rinks, usually takes up a fireplace mantel or a small shelf.

But for Randy Coleman, the village has grown and grown and grown — to around 200 square feet.

From Thanksgiving onward, the Gardendale resident fills the lower-floor room that would normally be his “man cave” with a dizzying array of lights, layers of snow-like fabric, a couple of trains, more than a hundred miniature houses and hundreds of figurines.

It didn’t start out this big. Coleman’s first village effort started 10 years ago, and occupied a bay window of a house in southeast Wisconsin, when he was working there for a large grocery distributor.

Over various job shuffles to and from Wisconsin, Memphis and Birmingham, the village grew little by little. Now, as a caregiver for his mother, Coleman has had stability and room to expand.

The village started in the living room under the Christmas tree, but got too big for that. Coleman moved it downstairs and put it on plywood sheets set on sawhorses.

“We’re always adding stuff to it,” he said. “My mom was in Tuscaloosa the other day and found a fiber-optic fountain to add to it. I even found some stuff at [Gardendale City Council president] Stan Hogeland’s yard sale.”

Like a Six Flags theme park, Coleman’s village has specific areas, such as Candyland and a main street with a parade.

Coleman is fond of pieces with movement and lights.

“Don’t give me a house with just a light bulb in it. I want figures in the house, like a pastor in a church pulpit or cookies on a conveyor belt in a bakery,” he said.

Come January, the village won’t be around, and next year’s version may be completely different. That’s because Coleman doesn’t keep everything in place during the off-season. He re-creates the scene each year, sometimes in very different ways.

“For instance, the Candyland area was up front by the entrance last year, and now it’s over in a corner,” Coleman said. “It’s never the same.”

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