It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially if you’re lucky enough to visit the Lake Cowichan home of Donna and Dennis Jones. Their festive, fully-lit Edwardian city, replete with residents, snowy streets and warm lighted windows is a veritable “Christmastown,” all in miniature.
“We’ve been collecting pieces for 32 years now and each year we set it up in a new layout,” said Donna Jones.
Since the Gazette’s last visit two years ago to “Jones City” (as it is nicknamed), there have been some exciting developments as well as a 20 per cent expansion in the growth of the tiny town. Dennis, Donna and their collection were recently featured in the CTV news segment I Love this Island with host, Bruce Williams. You can view the segment on YouTube under I love this island Christmas display inside a Lake Cowichan home.
“We’re now up to 142 buildings and about 750 to 800 people,” said Dennis, who is the official town planner and electrician.
For Donna, who dons the mayor’s hat, an invitation-only reception over three nights has made for more holiday fun. Invited guests are asked to bring donations to the Lake Cowichan food bank and are treated to a bounteous table of homemade goodies and refreshments.
The town boasts every amenity that one could imagine, from posh town-houses, bed and breakfasts to schools, churches, dance halls and a wide variety of shops and houses. For the tiny outdoor enthusiast there’s a winter camp, ice fishing hole, skating rink (complete with moving skaters) and that most Canadian of obsessions, a curling rink. The snowy streets, alight with glowing lamp posts, are busy with all manner of horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians. This year there’s a full choir singing carols, which is on loan from a friend.
The collection began 32 years ago, when Donna’s mum gave her the first set of three gingerbread buildings. The Jones are careful to match new items for correct scale size in various parts of the city.
“We search all the time now,” said Donna. “We find them all over. In Canadian Tire, Rona, London Drugs, Christmas shops and on some on our trips to the U.S.”
The Jones begin their setup mid-November and leave the display up until mid January. Dennis already has plans for next year’s layout, part of which will be U-shaped to aid access to the village during set up and for the many life-sized visitors who make a visit to the town part of their annual Christmas traditions. Children, especially, delight in the magical world which is the perfect height for pint-sized viewers.
A retired electrician, Dennis’s ingenuity in setting up the mass of cords and timers so the town always looks its’ best is an engineering feat to be proud of.
When asked if he had any secrets for keeping everything upright and in place in this miniature metropolis, Dennis replied, “I have one word. Velcro!”