We all knew someone that had a miniature Christmas village on their coffee table. It may have been a couple of Rockwell-esque houses or something a little more elaborate – but it is doubtful that you saw anything coming close to the Christmas metropolis adorning the aisles of Hopes Clover Farm Grocery in Novar, Ontario.
Well, perhaps “metropolis” isn’t the right word, because although the village is large, there is nothing about it that isn’t cozy, homey and nostalgic. The first glimpse of the village happens as soon as you walk into the store. The sheer enormity of the project takes a while to settle in as you gleefully examine the details and whimsy present throughout. The years melt away until you are a child again, imagining yourself staring at the brightly lit windows of Rimpey’s Bakery, or strolling past the police station where you’ll find the Book Bin Coffee Shop, serving up rare and used books and, no doubt, the perfect cup of Java. Christmas carols ring through the skies of this Lilliputian wonderland, interrupted by the laughter of children enjoying the attractions of the town. One finds oneself searching for Tiny Tim, his nose, perhaps, pressed against the window of one of the countless toy stores or bakeries.
For store operator and village architect Phil Hope, what began as an 8-foot display suggested by a couple of customers 6 years ago has quickly evolved into an annual project taking up 4 times the original space at more than 500 square feet, with in excess of 350 buildings, over 1,000 trees, too-many-to-count tiny cars and people, a ski hill and an amusement park complete with working Ferris wheel, roller coaster, parachute drop and model train. Originally constructed with pieces from his own collection, the village has grown to include gifts and donations from friends and customers as well as additional pieces purchased by Hope over the years. Following Thanksgiving each Year, Hope digs out the boxes containing the myriad of components and sets to work. Surprisingly, he doesn’t construct it from a master plan, but rather builds as he goes (it’s different every year), ensuring that the display offers good visibility, a logical structure and ease of access should anything require a mid-season adjustment.
After 6 weeks of effort and fine tuning, the village is ready for display by early December. Word of the village has spread far and wide, and Hope says that he has had inquiries from as far away as BC, Newfoundland and the United States. Cottagers with summer properties in the area make a mid-season trip north just to see the display and get into the Yuletide spirit. The village stays in place until late January or early February, at which time Hope begins meticulously packing the pieces into their original boxes, avoiding any confusion once it is time to resurrect the town for another season.
In a reveal that is even more heartwarming than the village itself, when Hope is questioned about his favorite part of the village, it isn’t a particular house or decoration that is selected. “My favorite thing”, Hope says, “is seeing how much children enjoy it. Well, children of all ages really. So many adults tell me how much it makes them feel like a kid again”.
Every year, we like to think that Christmas brings a little hope. In Novar, it’s the other way around.
Bonus – click here to check out some 360-degree video of the Novar Christmas Village amusement park!
The Christmas Village is on display at Hopes Clover Farm Grocery Store, Village Square, 18 Peter St, Novar, Ontario, from Early December until the end of January