Making little of Christmas

Some people go for Christmas in a big way. In the case of this Shelton couple you might say they make little of Christmas … big time.

Here’s a story written by our freelance reporter Arla Shepard for our North Mason publication about Steve and Roxie Martinell, who create a miniature wonderland in their home, and open it to the public during the holidays. The couple is shooting for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

You can visit the Martinells’ amazing collection for yourself and take in another miniature display at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island (details below).

Christmas is everyone’s favorite holiday in the Martinell household.
For about 30 days, from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Steve and Roxie Martinell work hard at transforming their Shelton home into a winter wonderland.
This year, they’re planning to enter their annual Christmas village, a miniature display of the holiday season, into the Guinness Book of World Records.
The display includes between 250 and 300 miniature homes, as well as post offices, railroad stations and movie theaters. There are also miniature people, a forest, the North Pole and a carnival.
The display totals about 2,500 pieces in all.
Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 11.06.37 AM
“My favorite part is seeing the kids’ eyes light up when they see it for the first time,” said Roxie Martinell, who collects and sets up the pieces each year. “We like doing it for the kids.”
The couple of 38 years have three sons and 14 grandchildren, but they also open up their home to the public during the month of December, offering hot chocolate and cookies to people who want to stop by and marvel at the village.
The tradition started many years ago, as a simple display beneath the Christmas tree, Roxie Martinell recalled.
As the years passed, the display grew larger, soon outgrowing a table display that the couple put up every year for their family.
In 1990, the couple decided to open up the Christmas village to the public for the first time, and since then the collection has increased in size and popularity.
“The table just got bigger and bigger,” said Steve Martinell, who now spends two to three days building a platform each year for the display. “People saw what we had and started to give us some more. We’ve got a lot of houses we can’t put up because we have too many.”
This year, Steve Martinell strung up between 28,000 to 30,000 lights outside their home, about 3,000 more lights than he put up last year.
Roxie Martinell enlisted the help of her son, Jeremy Martinell, and her grandchildren to set up the indoor miniature wonderland.
“It can be scary because there’s pieces out here that can’t be replaced, but it’s mostly fun,” Roxie Martinell said. “It’s a family thing that we can all do together.”
The family matriarch can remember nearly every piece that she owns, so there are no duplicates on display.
When she does receive an extra collectible, she often gives it to a friend.
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About 500 people visit the home in December to see the lights and the display. Some are friends, and many are regulars that come back every year, Steve Martinell said.
The couple would like to set the record for largest miniature Christmas Village display. They can’t find an existing record and are working with a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records to have it verified.
The process can take up to six weeks, Steve Martinell said.
While their children have asked when they’ll start charging people, Steve Martinell said the couple has no plans to put a price on the Christmas display.
“It brings us happiness and joy,” he said.

The Christmas Village is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday throughout December. The address is East 161 Johns Creek Drive in Shelton.

Bloedel Reserve Miniature Display
What: “Intricately designed, hand-made buildings and whimsical trains create holiday memories for years to come. With the Visitor’s Center decked to the nines, and cider simmering, it becomes an experience for the senses.”
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (except Mondays) through Jan. 5
Cost: Included with admission to the Reserve; adults, $13; seniors/military, $9; students 13 and older, $5. Children 12 and younger are free.

Musical Guests:
Dec. 14 from 1 to 2 p.m., The IslandWood Forest Chorus will carol in the Visitor’s Center. The chorus is an informal group of IslandWood staff, graduate students and docents.
Dec. 15 from noon to 1 p.m., singers from Grace Church will carol in the Visitor’s Center.

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