When Bunny Wygant moved in with her mother 25 years ago to be a caretaker and companion, she made the decision not to put up a Christmas tree. “I told her it was just too much trouble,” Wygant said.
Not too long after that, Wygant happened to see a sleeping santa figurine in a store.
“I thought he was so cute that I had to have him,” she said. “So I bought him.”
Since every Santa needs a Mrs. Claus, Wygant purchased her second figurine and a couple of elves shortly after her initial purchase.
“After I found the elves I thought, ‘well I have to build them a house,’ so I did,” said Wygant.
She look the house at its literal definition and built a structure 16 feet long and four feet wide out of styrofoam. It included Santa’s bedroom, Mrs. Claus’ living room, a kitchen and rooms for the elves.
Then it was time to furnish the house. Wygant started making beds and sewing curtains, making kitchen cupboards and then making the items to fill the shelves.
She handcrafted pots and pans, plates and cups, food items, tableware, curtains and lamps, beds and dressers, a fireplace and chair. The elves needed tools and toys.
“My first furniture was made out of cardboard and contact paper,” she said. “Then I bought some balsam wood and made furniture. I’d never done that before. I’d go to the kitchen and open my cupboards and see how everything worked and fit together and then try to build it.”
When the Claus family was all settled in, another figurine caught Wygant’s eye. It was the Ghost of Christmas Past. Creating “A Christmas Carol” scene became her next project. She found a Scrooge, built him a bedroom and then found the Ghost of Christmas Present. Deciding the figure was not scary enough to soot the Dicken’s scene, Wygant made a dark cloak for the figure to wear and a graveyard for him to stand in.
“Now he’s pretty scary,” she said. “But he had to look the part.”
Over the years Wygant has added a Christmas caroling scene, and elves workshop to the set. She added Annie Claus, complete with bedroom, to the Santa house.
“It just keeps growing,” said Wygant with a laugh. “You think about Christmas and all sorts of things come to mind. And you think, ‘this will go with this and that will go with that.’”
When the whole setup started taking over the living room of her mother’s house, her mother pointed out that putting up a Christmas tree was way less trouble that building an entire world of Christmas.
“She said, ‘a tree’s too much trouble? What is this?’ And I said, ‘it’s better than a tree,’” Wygant said with a laugh. “And it is.”
Word about the Christmas village spread throughout the neighborhood. Neighbors told neighbors and soon dozens of people were calling or stopping buy to look at the display.
Now, all of these years later, Wygant is still hard at work on her Christmas village.
“If I see something [a figurine] I don’t have then I might pick it up and then start deciding what I can build for it,” said Wygant. “You have to go where the association is. And there are so many things associated with Christmas. I just enjoy doing different things and if you use your imagination you can go crazy.”
The display traveled from Nevada to Utah and eventually made its way to Star Valley. Wygant, 77, now lives with her daughter, Patty Fuller. And her Christmas display has found a home at the Elkhorn Restaurant in Afton.
“Most of the figurines are 25 years old,” she said. “But they’ve had a bunch of different surroundings.”
This year they are staged on platforms.
“We start putting it up around Thanksgiving,” Wygant said. “It takes three or four days to get everything set the way it should be. And we leave it up until after New Years. Then its time to put it away. We break it down and pack it up.”
Wygant says her favorite thing about the village is having people’s faces “light up” when they see it.
“It’s the joy of seeing it all because you’ve got to admit that its just a little bit different,” she said. “If you have any kids they will find it fascinating. I can’t pick a favorite figure. I like them all. I’m just a big kid. I like getting the decorations up and really getting into Christmas.”
When asked if she is going to continue building the collection and adding new accessories, Wygant just laughs.
“More than likely,” she said. “Whatever catches my eye than I get it and start thinking about what I’m going to do with it.”
As for after the holiday season this year? Well, there are houses to build and a bed to repair.
Scrooge’s bed will need to be replaced before next Christmas.
“So I will build him another one,” she said.
And just think, it all started with a sleeping Santa…..