Gift of lights [UPDATED]Published 3:41am Monday, December 23, 2013 Updated 8:05am Monday, December 23, 2013
It’s a tradition for a Fergus Falls couple that’s 15 years old: The Johnson’s Christmas Village.
Pat and Jim Johnson have hung 20,000 lights in their village with care and display them, along with other holiday decorations, during the Christmas season.
Lights are on every evening from 4:30 to 11 p.m. for anyone to drive through the village. They also have specific Santa Nights a couple weekends in December. Different sections of the village — Jesus Land, Winter Wonderland, the forest, and Santa and the elves -— are marked with different-colored lights, for a little variety.
The Christmas Village is the brainchild of Pat Johnson, who started putting it together after she retired.
“I had a dream,” Pat Johnson said. “I wanted to do something for kids at Christmas. So what I did was went from secretary to carpenter.”
She remodeled a barn to become Santa’s workshop. She built a small church. She wanted life-size Santa and reindeer, so she cut them out of plywood, painted them and stuck them in the yard. All of the buildings are decorated with that extra-special Christmas-cheer touch.
“We started out small,” Pat Johnson said. “I suppose we put up a few things. Every year we add something new.”
The Johnson’s Christmas Village is located on County Hwy. 27 about two miles north of Fergus Falls. The final Santa Night this season is from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21.
They probably had about a hundred visitors the first year, “and now, oh it’s way past 1,000,” Pat Johnson said. They’ve had as many as 200 people in one night.
Visitors aren’t just locals, either. They’ve had people from overseas, who maybe are in the area visiting family, that stop by to take in the display. They have many return visitors, even parents who viewed the lights when they were kids and are coming back with their own families.
“It’s really amazing the people that you meet,” Jim Johnson said.
People have offered to help the Johnsons with the set-up, but they politely decline. They already have a routine and they both enjoy being outdoors to do the decorating.
When folks stop by with little ones, they usually stop and talk to Santa first, where they get a bag of goodies, Pat Johnson said, before going through the rest of the buildings and taking in the spectacle of lights.
“Then they all come in for snacks when they get done,” she said.
Pat Johnson puts on quite the spread for folks to enjoy including hot apple cider, homemade bread, deviled eggs, rice crispy treats, pop, pickles, pretzels and more. The inside of their home is just as inviting as the outdoor display, with Christmas decorations and collections of nativity scenes and Santa bears.
“We like it,” Pat Johnson said. “It’s just fun to see all the people come, and just to give something at Christmas.”
They often receive thank-you notes from those who come take in the Christmas village, which they appreciate, Pat Johnson said.
“It’s our gift to them, to everyone who wants to enjoy it,” she said. “It’s always better to give something at Christmas than get it.”