FARMINGTON -- After Sondra Farris was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer, she decided to set up her annual Christmas village a little sooner than usual.
She and her husband, Richard, spent several days in July setting up at least 50 miniature Christmas houses and buildings that make up their eclectic village. The display covers nearly their entire living room.
"I asked Richard if he thought it would be crazy if I put up the village in July, even though I knew it may be pretty tacky. But I knew if I did, it would give me hope," Sondra, 69, said.
"I didn't think I would have the energy to set it up this year, but I set it up as my affirmation that I am going to get better and everything is going to be all right," she said.
Sondra knew her last cancer treatment would be in January, so her plan is to take down the village afterward and start her life fresh.
"Seeing this village, to me, means that life goes on, that we can get through and keep going on with life," she said.
Along with numerous miniature houses sits a small ice-skating rink with moving ice skaters, a marching band, a popcorn machine with kernels popping inside, and a carnival area with bumper cars, carousel, and a Ferris wheel -- all in action.
"There really is a lot to see," said Sondra, who has been looking at her village for so long she has memorized every inch of the display.
There's one thing viewers won't find in her village -- in keeping with the early 1900s theme, she has not included any cars in the village.
New to her collection this year is a miniature hospital, which the couple thought was fitting given all the time they've spent in the hospital for her cancer treatments.
The Christmas village hobby began with her grandmother, who also decorated a large village. Sondra learned to love the miniature buildings when she was a child and decided to keep the tradition alive.
She started her own collection 25 years ago with a starter set of miniature houses, which for several years were displayed on her fireplace.
Each year since, she has collected more and more pieces until eventually her husband had to build a four-level shelving unit to hold the village. Even then, the display overflowed into their living room.
Ultimately, the Christmas village is meant for their 15 grandchildren, who all know how to turn on the lights on the display. Sondra said she loves watching them play with the village, because they are so fascinated with all of the different pieces.
"It's like they are playing house, because from the moment they turn it on, they start pretending and play like it's real," she said.
The Farrises' four children have also continued the tradition, with villages in their homes. Her son even has a baseball stadium as part of his village.
Sondra said it's a time-consuming process to turn on all the lights and assorted items, not to mention the number of lights and batteries they go through each year.
"This is $10 right here," said Sondra, as she put a new strand of miniature lights on one of the trees in the village.
"Everything costs a lot of money," she said, pointing out all the accessories in the village, including all the little people, trees, sleds, shovels, and even a horse-drawn milk wagon.
"We buy batteries by (bulk). But I know it gives her a lot of joy," said Richard Farris, who has enjoyed having the village set up in their living room.
"She is my best friend and the love of my life."