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The keepers of the Christmas village

Roger Schiller turns on Santa's sleigh in the miniature Christmas village he set up in the basement of his rural Wadena home. Santa and his sleigh spin over the village to the tune of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."1 / 6
Roger Schiller stands proudly by the 18-foot-long and 4-foot-wide Christmas village he assembled in the basement of his rural Wadena home.2 / 6
The dome of the ice castle glows in the village.3 / 6
Santa goes "ho, ho, ho" as his sleigh spins over the village.4 / 6
A schoolmarm rings a bell to call students to the little schoolhouse.5 / 6
Schiller shows a birch tree he made.6 / 6

Roger and Leona Schiller's place in rural Wadena looks like a quiet country home but inside is a bustling village with children skating, a choir singing and Santa ho-ho-hoing.

Roger, 73, constructed an 18-foot-long and 4-foot-wide Christmas village made of miniature Department 56 homes, shops, churches and various buildings in his basement. The buildings are lit from the inside and cast a warm glow on the village. Some of the pieces also make sounds and move.

A dance hall lights up to reveal twirling couples inside. A photographer's camera flashes each time children come to get their photo with Santa. And a sleigh with Santa and his reindeer spins high over the village.

Roger started collecting the pieces for his village in 1992.

"We just love Christmas," he said. "We always have."

The Schillers' four kids and their families celebrate Christmas each year at their house. The grandkids love the village, Roger said.

Roger used to set up the village the end of October and take it down in February, he said, but last year he decided to leave it up.

"It's getting too big," he said.

It takes him five days to set everything up and three days to take it down, Roger said.

Pictures in a photo album chronicle the village's growth from a few pieces set up on a sofa table upstairs to its present location in the family room in the basement.

He's gotten a lot of the village as gifts, he said. His birthday is in October, so his kids and grandkids like to give pieces then. Roger also buys pieces for himself when he sees something he likes.

The village is constructed on four graduated levels of Styrofoam covered in white plastic vinyl that are set up on tables. A green fabric skirt hides the multitude of cords that give light to the village. There is a city, a residential area and Santa's workshop in Roger's village. The retired dairy and hog farmer also set up a farm on the edge of the town. There's even a mountain and lighthouses.

Roger makes some of the trees in the village's landscape. The birch trees are made from wire covered in masking tape that is painted white with black spots.

The impressive display doesn't hold all of Roger's collection, though. He estimates he has enough other pieces for another four feet of village, he said. He would like to work on adding at least another two feet to his village for next year.

Both Roger and Leona's favorite piece is the ice castle with a glowing dome near the center of the village.

"It's just beautiful," Roger said.

The Schillers light up the village when people come to visit and all day on