Around the Northeast Kingdom

Big little village decorates Newport  

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by Luke Vidic

NEWPORT — Thimble-sized elves, reindeer, milkmen, fishermen, and townsfolk have taken over the North Country Chamber of Commerce’s visitor center.  Their little city full of festive lights, puff-ball snow, and an assortment of local industry — from eateries to reindeer school — sprawls across tables, all provided courtesy of its curator, Donna Mandart.

“I love my village,” she said. “Everybody has a purpose.”

The Chronicle visited the village on Saturday.

Folks who come in to view the village when Ms. Mandart is around can get treated to a guided tour.

The ice fisherman’s house is only a short walk from the fish market.  The elves and reindeer keep to the western side of town.  One elf sleeps on a bench after a long day of toy making.  The reindeer hospital is next door to the reindeer flight school, just in case of mishaps during practice. On the other side of town, a group of players perform Shakespeare in the park while children run ’round the town’s Christmas tree.

The whole setup took Ms. Mandart 26 hours to assemble, and the houses, people, and ornaments on display still only make up half of her collection.  The other half rests in boxes in the visitor’s center storage room.

The full display can stretch across 32-feet of tables, which the visitor’s center cannot handle.

“I don’t have anywhere to put it,” she said.

The village currently takes up roughly a third of the visitor’s center’s floorspace.  The remaining space is filled by the center’s usual racks and tables full of informational pamphlets.

She began collecting holiday dioramas thirty years ago, when her husband bought her first decoration as a wedding gift.  Over the years, her collection grew as she found new figurines and homes at antique shops and garage sales.  When she resided on Long Island, the whole setup would wrap around her porch, and she would set out chairs for people to sit on and ogle its details.

She moved to Newport two and a half years ago, and she said the Northeast Kingdom often reminds her of her Christmas village.

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