MICHIGAN’S MAGICAL CHRISTMAS INN

Dutch Colonial Inn is a pretty bed and breakfast in a pristine Holland  neighborhood that shows its Dutch heritage with fresh-swept streets, manicured lawns and a sense of safety and serenity.  At Christmas, it turns magical.

The Jenny Lind Suite is one of four guest rooms with private baths, all decked out for the holidays. Sure enough, the fireplace mantle is covered with lighted Snow Village miniatures.

Innkeepers Bob and Pat Elenbaas make decorating their B&B a  family affair.  Their five  grandchildren earn ten bucks apiece to bring boxes out of storage and into designated positions on each of the four floors of the roomy 1928 home. That’s just the beginning of a three-week-long process. It takes time to decorate nine indoor Christmas trees — each with its own theme and one especially “for the birds.” It takes a village to install 16,000 colorful holiday lights of all shapes and sizes. It takes the patience of saints to lovingly unbox, place and light up 260 Original Department 56 Snow Village pieces and the many dozens of companion cars, trucks, sleighs, pine trees, Christmas trees, shopkeepers, ministers, school teachers, pets, pooches, Santas and children — all the accessories that bring them to life.

The little train is one of many animated Snow Village pieces.

Decorative paintings and wall hangings are carted into storage and changed out for snowy holiday images throughout the house and guest rooms. Every surface is covered in Christmas-themed notions and curiosities of every elegant and collectible ilk. But whimsical Snow Village miniatures rule. They cover nearly every surface in every guest room and common area and even in Pat and Bob’s private living quarters. Unless  you see it with your own eyes, it’s difficult to fathom how many pieces there are in the number 2-6-0.

This is one of dozens of Snow Village vignettes that populate the surfaces at Dutch Colonial Inn. Notice the windmill and the Hershey’s truck.

 

This detail of the vignette above and to the left demonstrates the attention to detail that makes Snow Village miniatures such captivating collectibles.

Bob and Pat aren’t long-time collectors. They were given their first Snow Village miniature as a gift just 10 years ago. It was love at first light. Since then, they’ve made collecting a science with records of pieces acquired carefully maintained to avoid duplication on vacations and shopping trips. Once, a friend called Bob and told him about a classified ad spotted in The Grand Rapids Press offering a large number of pieces for $1600. A divorce occasioned the sale and the ex-wife wanted them gone. In the end, getting no buyers, she settled for $600. Bob drove off with his pick-up truck stacked high with immaculately-maintained, boxed miniatures that turned out to include some of the earliest pieces first marketed in 1976.  Some of them are valued at much more than the entire truck-load price.

The photo gives no sense of size. These multiple tiers are a good five feet high and stretch wider than eight feet. This is what the Village of Snow Village looks like with its lighted windows twinkling in the dark. Peek inside the Krispy Creme with its automated doughnut conveyor, the jewelry store with its myriad of tiny gems, the rockin’ American Bandstand studio, the pool hall with its good ole’ boys racking up another frame — and dozens’ more icons of Americana.

Guests who book stays at Dutch Colonial Inn over the holidays are treated to a unique Christmas fantasy world that’s a little like a friendly museum where you can look as long as you want at whatever you want, practically wherever you want.

Give yourself a holiday treat: book lodging at this wonderfully warm, friendly and magical B&B this holiday season — or next.  Never fear: if you don’t finde time before Christmas, plan a getaway after the holiday. With three weeks of hard work invested in putting them up, Bob and Pat aren’t keen to take the decorations down before the spirit moves them — maybe sometime in February. There’s plenty of time — time well spent and well worth the going room rate.