A local man has taken over some space at the Flatiron Museum to display his miniature village collection that consists of more than 1,000 pieces.
Dennis Wilson has been building his collection for years and for the past two, he has displayed it at the Flatiron for the community to enjoy.
“I have had some of my pieces for years. Some were given to me but the whole village tells a story of things I like to do like ice fishing and skating,” Wilson said.
“Next year it will be even bigger as the museum is going to give me a much larger space. I have so much more to it, but don’t have the room to show it all off.”
Wilson began collecting in 2002 with only a few pieces to a village.
His wife Elaine said she used to have to move furniture into a spare bedroom and bathroom just so Dennis could lay out his village.
Since 2012, he has been allocated space at the Flatiron Museum.
“Dennis would go to work, come home and be at the museum by 3:30 or 4 p.m. to set it up. He would work on the display and come home around 9 – later on some nights. Then on Saturday, he goes to the museum and spends all day setting up. There is about two weeks of that to get everything up,” said Elaine.
The process that Dennis takes to set up the village is deliberate and careful. He begins with the snow, meticulously placing and cutting to arrange for houses, storefronts, activity pieces and electrical components.
The collection contains a ski hill, with a working lift and moving snowboarders, a theatre, a pool hall, a Banff Springs Hotel replica, moving hockey players on a rink, a casino and over 50 houses. There is also a firehall, a Canadian Tire pit stop and even an ice-fisher in the park – a personal hobby for Dennis.
Nearly all of the pieces are bought as is, but Dennis has put some time and effort into hand painting a handful of items, including some houses and decorative stores.
“When he takes it down, every piece is wrapped individually. Dennis cuts out bubble wrap and each one is individually wrapped. He is passionate about his village and it’s good to see that in a hobby,” Elaine said.
“In July, everything is unpacked and dusted off – with a toothbrush, thank you very much! Dennis keeps everything immaculate.”
The Flatiron Museum has been allowing Dennis to set up his display there as a way to engage the community and offer a festive display that goes along with Light Up the Night and other seasonal events.
“We like to try to switch up our displays, too. While we usually display historic exhibits and things that address the history of our region, it’s nice for us to engage with different audiences in the community and bring different people to the museum space,” said Executive Director for Lacombe and District Historical Society Marie Péron.
“We think that this is a great way for us to reach out to the community, who can get involved and have something festive for the season.”
Dennis and Elaine used to host the collection in their apartment as an open house tour to the public, but quickly ran out of space.
The first time it was held in the Flatiron building was in 2012 and has returned since by popular demand.
“The village is a wonderful way for us to have a special display just for the Christmas season, and tie it into the Light up the Night festivities.
“It also gives us a way to reach out to younger demographics that may not be as interested in the traditional historically-based displays that we usually have,” said Péron.
“We had Dennis come in and do an installation of his village in 2012. At the time, it was a bit smaller than it is now. But he’s got well over 1,000 pieces in his display and we’re able to provide him with a secure space to show it off.”
Elaine said she doesn’t help Dennis with the display at all.
Dennis lays out the design and puts it together by himself, a process that takes anywhere from two to three weeks.
“The community likes to see my village and I enjoy showing it to everyone. I hope that everyone that has seen it will have enjoyed it,” Dennis said.
The display is available to be seen by the public until Dec. 20th.