- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) - It took about a year for Sid Peterson to build a village, and it started with a single train engine.

Now, the Silver Crest resident has a full, miniature 1800’s winter town encircled by a Kincaid Christmas passenger train set, which is drawing a lot of attention.

“It all started with seeing a picture of that engine and coal car in a magazine,” he said. “And I had to have it, like a kid. So we got the train and another car and another car…one thing led to another and I said ‘Let’s get a village,’ and we started our village.”

Although the train set and village is Peterson’s baby, he had plenty of collaboration with other residents and even some staff, at the facility.

Although yet unnamed, the little Christmas town is a sugar-plum dream for anyone ready to step back in time into a simpler, snowy time.

Carolers lift up their voices just outside a little church, under the glow of a light-strung tree, while folks nearby compete in a snowman-building contest. Across town, a woman feeds goats outside a barn while braver souls take advantage of the frozen pond for ice-skating.

Redbirds dot several trees. Mail is delivered by bicycle.

“People contributed,” he said. “They’d say ‘Oh, I got this’ and ‘I got that’ and we just about had everything.”

One of Peterson’s favorite parts is the man selling popcorn out of a cart, near the gazebo.

“And did you see the mailman? I think he’s kind of neat.”

After he got the initial idea to start this, nearly a year ago, Peterson asked staff to help him get a table big enough to start on. He and others built the town on the fifth floor, where he and his wife, Janet, have lived for the past two years. Then it was packed up, brought down to the main floor and reassembled a few weeks ago for Christmas.

“I’d work an hour, hour-and-a-half, leave it go for a day, figure out what it needed and go get it,” he said. “I really enjoyed doing it.”

When Cindy Kinder-Benge, painter and head cook at the facility’s dining services, heard about the town that was coming to fruition, she worked to get a snowy backdrop painted. It features loosely brushed, snow-capped trees, meant to show the rural quiet beyond the town.

“The perfect thing as far as I’m concerned,” Peterson said. “Cindy did exactly what we wanted. We didn’t know what we wanted, but that’s what we wanted.”

Kinder-Benge also helps spread creativity elsewhere - she recently did a large mural at Silver Creek and volunteers to do painting classes for Silver Crest residents on a regular basis. She said she loves the little village.

And at night it is beautiful,” she said. “The little lights are all light up; it seriously looks like a little town.”

Donna Poole, life enrichment director at the facility, said they were more than happy to get Peterson set up with the table he’d asked for to get started. She said it’s been impressive to watch the work come to life over the past year.

“He’s just loved working on it so it’s been god for him,” she said. “And a lot of other residents contributed, buying things and helping him put the snow on it so it was a really good project.

“Lifelong learning is one of our standards so this was one of the best lifelong learning projects we’ve had because it was ongoing. They’re really enjoyed it.”

As for what’s next, Peterson said he hopes to secure a bigger table so he can get some switches for the tracks, to turn it into more of what he calls a railroad than the oval it travels now.

But residents of the facility and their guests still have some time to enjoy and appreciate the village they’ve created together - it’s going to stay in the “train room” downstairs for a little while longer.

“Everybody likes it,” he said. “They think it’s cute.

“We’re going to leave this up, since we got the darn thing up, until after the first of the year.”

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Source: News and Tribune, https://bit.ly/2h9uw80

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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