Looking for an Irving Berlin, old-fashioned Christmas experience far removed from the digital age?
Take a ride to the Liberty Heights retirement center on the far north end of Colorado Springs and check out the holiday village erected in the lobby.
It’s one of those often-overlooked gestures by folks who simply want to share a little joy of the season.
What Barbara and George Millholland have set up there is their life’s collection of lighted, hand-painted ceramic buildings.
On three eight-foot tables they’ve created a little village meant to inspire a nostalgic winter wonderland.
There’s a train that runs in a circle around part of the village. And a little snow-covered hill with snowboarders who go round-and-round down the hill.
A carousel plays music and the Ferris wheel emits crowd noise.
Honestly, I was a bit skeptical when it was suggested I should see if for myself. But I’m glad I did. It was something I’d expect to see in a department store display.
I wondered why Barbara and George had taken the time to haul it out and put it on display.
“We just do it as a gift of love,” Barbara told me. “We thought it would be something everyone could enjoy — the people who live there, their children and their grandchildren who come to visit.”
It’s also open for viewing by the public until Jan. 7. Just pull up to the security gate during business hours on weekdays and tell them why you are there. They will buzz you in.
It’s the second year Barbara and George have shared their holiday village with the Liberty Heights residents and it’s been warmly received by the 175 folks who live there, said Amanda Schwilch, marketing director at the center.
“It’s a big part of our Christmas tradition already,” Schwilch said.
Comments on a visitor’s registry echo that feeling.
“Awesome” said one guest. “Wow” said another. “Reminds me of my childhood” wrote yet another.
Barbara said she sees the joy it brings residents.
“It captivates them,” she said. “They come back again and again to see it. And some of the men come down to play with the train. They are excited it’s there.”
The village represents 37 years of collecting by the Millhollands, over the course of their marriage.
“We started with three pieces and now we have hundreds,” George said.
Until recently, the holiday village was displayed only in the Millhollands’ home.
Their children and grandchildren played with it each Christmas, rearranging the houses and running the train. But the past few years they had a problem.
“It got too big,” she said. “It outgrew our space.”
There’s plenty of room at Liberty Heights, 12105 Ambassador Drive, just east of Voyager Parkway off Ramtron Drive.
I watched residents wander by admiring it and clearly they love it. And that’s the whole point.
“It’s all about love,” Barbara said.
And that is what the season is all about. Right?