Fourteen years ago when his mom passed way Kevin Fister inherited six little buildings she used as Christmas decorations. Today, he and has wife have 78 buildings and all sorts of accessories they build into an intricate display each year in their Leesburg area home.
“It’s something we like to do, and we like to share it. Some people decorate their house outside and go crazy, and we go crazy on the inside,” Kevin said Friday.
Before his mother passed away Kevin said he and a brother used to help set up a little Christmas scene with the buildings on their mother’s mantle. They both inherited some of the buildings, but the brother gave his to Kevin.
“I had a blast doing it when mom was alive – you know how brothers banter back and forth – and mom really enjoyed it. Next thing your know we had six and seven of our own on a small table, we kept buying stuff and our kids started buying us stuff, and it’s mushroomed to what it is today,” Kevin said.
Actually, Kevin said, this year’s display is a little smaller than the last few years. He said they left out the White House, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty, a harbor scene they were placed near, along with a few other other items. Last year he said the display nearly filled up the entire room except for the entryway.
“We have figures of Mr. and Mrs. Obama, but I’m (ticked off) at him this year so I haven’t put him in there yet,” Kevin said.
The Fisters change the layout every year. This year they enlarged the train tracks and created more of a town scene.
To the left of the display there’s a gated community with a daycare center, kids playing, a school, a scene from “The Christmas Story” where Ralphie’s tongue is stuck to a pole, a school pep rally, a library, church, hospital, cemetery scene and Santa’s workshop. Above and to the right of that there’s a “rich community” with a castle and other fancy homes. In the business district there’s a gas station, fire station, Dollar General, Walmart, police department, post office, Gazette newspaper office and grocery store.
There’s a ski lodge with a working ski lift, an ale house, and people skiing down a hill. In the front of the display there’s a park carnival scene, chocolate factory, barbershop, train station, lumber mill and country church.
Back on top of the hill there’s a radio station, ice cream shop, Santa’s lighthouse and Reindeer Flight School, Santa’s house and a couple other homes. There are streets, vehicles, street lights, and hundreds of individuals characters involved in all kinds of activities.
Hanging from the ceiling are Santa and his reindeer flying over the town, with a moon in the background.
“That Santa and his reindeer were on my Christmas tree every year when I was a kid,” Kevin said.
There’s a park scene with a gazebo, carolers, movie theater, bed and breakfast, other homes, a veterinary center, and more.
Moving parts include a windmill, chocolate factory, the ski lift, a double ferris wheel, hot air ballon, merry-go-round, train, popcorn popper and revolving Christmas tree.
The Fisters said they start building the scene a little before Thanksgiving and it takes about three weeks to complete it. They enjoy it, but said it can sometimes be a little stressful.
“A couple years ago I thought we were going to knock each other out before we got it all up,” Debbie laughed.
The display stays up through the first or second week of January, then goes back into storage for another year.
“We do it because we like to do it,” Kevin said. “I used to decorate the whole outside of the house, but I’m getting to old to do much of that.”
Still, they have a nativity scene in their front yard and Debbie decorates the front porch.
Mike was born in Dayton, moved to Washington C.H. 35 years ago, and came to the Leesburg area when he married Debbie in 2001. He currently works at Huhtamaki. Debbie was born in Brown County, graduated from Blanchester High School and moved to Leesburg in the 1970s. They have four children between them and one of them, Fairfield High School graduate Jeremy Johnson, also helps build the Christmas display.
The Fisters said that after Christmas they play with the display a bit and that there might be a car wreck, train crash, or something like that. “It’s just time to play with it and have a little fun,” they said.
Wherever they go they look for new additions and said they next year they may go back to a larger display.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this would grow like it’s grown when I started,” Kevin said. “I have no regrets. The only thing I’ll regret is if none of the kids takes it over. But I don’t plan on that happening for a while.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.