By Joe Stumpe
Ragene Moore is one of those people who leave their Christmas decorations up long past the holidays. But in her case, it’s by popular demand. Hundreds of people toured her mammoth collection of Department 56 Snow Village scenes, set up inside her home in west Wichita.
Just how big a collection is it? More than 225 miniature buildings and 500 trees are spread over her living room, dining room, kitchen, all four bedrooms, master bath, basement music room and family room.
The retired Wesley nurse traces her obsession with the glazed ceramic pieces to 1979, when she and her sister were shopping at the old McLeod’s gift store and bought each other their first Department 56 pieces. She loved the fact that they are replicas of actual buildings in this country dating back at least to the 1950s, “my era.”
She began collecting pieces and joined the local Air Cap 56’ers club. They tried to out-do each with their Christmas displays and held a soup dinner each year just prior to rushing out to buy pieces that were being retired from the collection. The club decorates the Ronald McDonald House each year.
Moore took a 13-year break from decorating after getting remarried. Last year, however, she decided to bring it back. That meant hauling home eight SUV’s full of Department 56 pieces from a storage unit.
Moore groups her collection into locales and makes up stories to tell about each one. Her living and dining rooms hold numerous church and nativity scenes. There was also a newly created “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” pieces from the Harley Davidson collection, and mansion on a hill overlooking an amusement park, riverboat casino and country club.
Christmas has always been Moore’s favorite time of year and she admits to going overboard on more than just Department 56 pieces. She lays down Christmas area rugs, hangs hundreds of Hallmark ornaments, replaces all artwork on the walls with Christmas pictures, changes bedding to Christmas colors, sets out holiday glassware and, of course, puts up enough outdoor lighting to make the Griswalds proud. (Truth by told, Moore is also fond of Valentine’s Day, Easter, July 4th and Halloween – and has the Department 56 pieces to prove it).
If you’re wondering how her husband, Ben, reacted to his first Department 56 Christmas, Moore says he “was very supportive and especially liked the ‘50s auto vignette and the one in honor of his recently deceased uncle. He even had friends over and gave his own narration of the villages.”
Moore is now in the process of storing away her pieces and making even bigger plans for next winter, including an earlier start.
“ I ran out of time to finish all my decorating,” she said. “Could it be that I am 13 years older? Nah!”
People who are interested in viewing Ragene Moore’s collection can reach her at Rageneaw@cox.net