Christmas In Miniature

A Quarter of a Century in the Making
By 
Alastair Baker
News Editor
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
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Photos by Don Redfoot
Christmas goes small scale in Red Lodge. The stroll is still going on…in miniature at Don Redfoot and Kathy Kenyon’s house, south of town. He has acquired and built a breathtaking little village in his home for Christmas.

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The abode of Don Redfoot and Kathy Kenyon has been taken over this festival season by a project that has taken 25 years to build; a miniature Christmas Village. 

 “Our Christmas village has become a major urban planning project over time,” Redfoot admits. It even boasts a 60-year old Lionel train set running through it, which Redfoot has had since he was a child. 

“We began collecting lighted buildings and figurines about 25 years ago or so when the kids were little and added to it each year for 15 or more years,” he added. 

The children are now in their early 30s and are currently living in the house Redfoot’s in-laws built across from his present home along Highway 212. Because of the Pandemic the children have been working remotely with organizations located in Silicon Valley (daughter Emma), Denver (son Kenyon), and Washington, DC (daughter-in-law Hannah). 

“The pandemic has been so horrible for so many people, making it difficult for families to be together during this holiday season. But it has enabled our family to be together for this special time in our lives, which made it worth hauling the boxes out of the crawl space storage to set up the Christmas village that has been a part of our family tradition for so many years,” said Redfoot. 

“When we moved to Red Lodge five years ago to take care of my in-laws, we continued the tradition by setting up the Christmas village on an old ping pong table in their home. Even though they experienced advancing dementia, they enjoyed the traditions of Christmas and the memories they evoked,” he said.

“This year, we decided to erect this seasonal metropolis in our garage, both because it was much too big for the modest sized house we live in and because we wanted to be able to share it with our friends in the Red Lodge community. We figured that we could safely host a few people at a time in an open garage, with a little mulled wine and some snacks to make it vaguely reminiscent of the German Christkindl Markets,” said Redfoot. 

Setting up the village took about a week of piecemeal effort with Redfoot, Kenyon, and Emma hauling out the boxes, unpacking everything that had been carefully packed, rebuilding the ping pong table that was in pieces, to assemble the village and its rail transit system. 

“The village is actually organized into multiple neighborhoods with distinctive architecture and periods. One end is Victorian in style, complete with the settings and characters featured in Dickens' ‘A Christmas Carol’ while the main square, in the middle, is dominated by a castle with Tudor style architecture. The other end is rustic and rural with log architecture meant to evoke the style of Montana. The backside has a Santa's village with elves and reindeer, and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus,” said Redfoot. 

“I'm not sure what the recent census would count as the population of our village, but the number of figurines would be in the dozens,” he joked.

Redfoot says the family carries on with the village because “holiday celebrations and the traditions that surround them are important ways we build the memories that serve as the foundation for lives.” 

“For our kids when they were little, it added to the magical enjoyment of Christmas. For my aging in-laws, the traditions helped retrieve fragments of memories of happy times we had spent together. Rebuilding the village this year has brought back all of those memories, and helps us build new memories by sharing it with friends. Even yet, a number of our kids' childhood friends have noted what an important part earlier versions of the village played in their Christmas memories,” said Redfoot. “Plus it gives expression to a decided tendency toward silliness that my Red Lodge friends should have noticed by now.”