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Setting the scene

by: VERN UYETAKE, Jerry and Karel Pollard stand in their basement amid village exhibits portraying England in the 1800s. Platforms that Jerry built twist and turn around the perimeter of the room, creating space for the neighborhoods to come alive.

The sounds of a distant train warn passengers to prepare to board. Families carrying luggage throughout the snow wait patiently bundled up at the train station. Across town, one couple takes an evening stroll. Carolers singing Christmas tunes stand around a large tree in the center of the village.

An entire city comes to life in a local couple's basement. Jerry and Karel Pollard's West Linn home appears quiet from the outside, but each holiday season the inside is busy with activity when the couple sets up elaborate miniature village displays spanning every room of their house.

Setting up more than 240 small porcelain houses each year, the couple dedicates rooms in their home to cities far away; New York City appears next to the dining room, old towns in England are downstairs and Chicago is alive with commotion in the kitchen.

Built upon freestanding wood platforms encased with insulation foam board, Jerry uses creativity when crafting the snow-covered platforms each year in the garage.

In the living room, an alcove was purposely cut into the side of one platform so visitors can view tiny-lit up houses at eye level when seated on the couch.

'For our kids, (our collection) is a Godsend. I mean, they always know what to get dad for Christmas, birthdays and Father's Day,' said Jerry. '(I enjoy) the ability to create infrastructure into a piece of art.'

And the couple adds to their elaborate holiday collection each year.

Beginning with a Victoria Station building in 1990, - which Karel nicknamed 'the demon that started it all' - the couple said that each year they can choose their favorite house and village display.

This year, a multi-leveled city display fits snugly in the living room beneath a staircase leading upstairs. Every two years Jerry completely disassembles his platforms to create new arrangements. Then the displays are tucked into different corners of the house.

A small boy flies a kite in the living room display. Roads twist and turn throughout the village, leading cars to stadiums and small cafes.

Just across the couch and coffee table the Empire State Building, New York Times Building and Statue of Liberty are festive for New Year's Eve.

Tiny people wait in Times Square for the famous ball to drop, initiating a new year. The couple said they have had several New Year's Eve parties in which the ball dropped on top of their miniature One Times Square building.

From standing at the kitchen sink, the Pollards can view Chicago. Miniature Greek, French and Italian restaurants blend with an Irish Pub, Cadillac dealership and Coca Cola store. The couple's daughter lives in Chicago and the display reminds them of the different cultures and ethnic groups, they said.

'I can stand in the kitchen and see a couple having a romantic dinner in a little restaurant in the corner,' said Karel. 'And I can look at the Christmas Treasures (building) and there's a little miniature village in their window.'

In another room the village display continues with an 1800s London city-scape featuring buildings common during English novelist Charles Dickens' lifetime.

Charles Dickens - one of the most popular writers of the Victorian era - wrote 'Oliver Twist' and 'A Christmas Carol,' introducing the world to Scrooge and Tiny Tim. The display features Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and parliament buildings as they looked centuries ago when Dickens lived.

The elaborate exhibit surrounds the perimeter of the room on large platforms resembling tables. One section of the village protrudes diagonally into the center of the sitting area.

While strolling through their basement the couple points to buildings in Europe that initiated travel plans.

'Because of our interest in the villages all of a sudden we thought, 'wouldn't it be fun to see them (in real life)?'' said Jerry.

Jerry built towering mountains, rock walls and a waterfall in an upstairs loft display. In the scene, a stream flows from a mountain, under historic buildings, through a tunnel, under a road and into a waterfall.

The tiered village features Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit's house and the Curiosity Shop, as it originally looked. Dickens' house - a brilliant brick building - sits on a cozy street.

'I like (the houses) because it takes your imagination and you can insert yourself in the village and walk down the streets and visit the shops. The realism is so great the you sort of escape in a way and use your imagination to just enjoy the city,' said David Wilson, neighbor. 'The more you look the more you see.'

Each year the Pollards add to their miniature house collection and rearrange their displays. They said that their actual neighborhood is known to 'go all out' for the holidays.

'We live in a neighborhood where everybody takes care of everybody else,' said Karel.

And the Pollards say they always invite the neighbors over to view their holiday arrangements.

'There's nothing like it,' said Linda Johansen, neighbor. 'This neighborhood is so unique. You almost have to have permission to leave.'

Their collection has inspired not only their immediate neighbors to start holiday house collections, but also their friends worldwide.

'We have friends in England that came over and saw our Dickens Village,' said Jerry. 'Now, they send me a picture every year or so of their villages.'

Karel said that the couple's collection helped them reconnect with people they hadn't seen in years. And now, each year they invite friends and neighbors to view their miniature house displays.

'One year we decided to send out some invitations and see who showed up,' said Karel. 'Now, it's become part of people's Christmas.'

The Pollards give tours, if possible, to churches and assisted living facilities. Contact Karel, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .