Joan Pappalardo and John Murphy have an impressive holiday village display set up in their living room at Brooksby Village. So impressive, in fact, that they schedule regular open houses to accommodate all their fellow residents eager to see it. Staff members also stop by with their families to check it out.
The North Pole Village is part of a collector's series called Department 56 and the couple's grand display now spreads across a 16-foot long table and took about six weeks to assemble it all.
Pappalardo said her hobby started out as a modest affair with just three or four houses she had received as Christmas presents, but now more than a decade later, it's turned into 70-plus houses on two levels, five skating rinks, a skiing hill, a waterfall, crystal palace, an electric train and more all laid out in a picturesque village.
It was Murphy, however, who kept expanding the collection and its intricacies. The two met at Brooksby six years ago and Murphy became enamored with the hobby as well.
"It's all a labor of love," he said, adding that it has given him countless hours to spend tinkering on various odds and ends, and adding small features to the village.
"I'm like a little boy playing with my toys," he said, laughing.
"It has taken John six weeks to create this," said Pappalardo. “And it's even bigger and better than last year."
The couple first held open houses last year for fellow residents and saw 700 gather in their apartment to admire the village. This year, they expect to see 800-900 people. The couple also accepts goodwill donations toward the Benevolent Care Fund at Brooksby Village during open houses.
Murphy and Pappalardo actually joined a local club of fellow Department 56 enthusiasts who meet regularly in the auditorium at the Peabody Municipal Light Plant. They started acquiring pieces from there and sharing ideas.
Murphy added that the hobby isn't cheap -- some pieces cost as much as $150 each. That crystal palace mentioned earlier actually cost $200, although it isn't actually a part of the official set.
There are even a dozen pieces Murphy and Pappolardo didn't put out this year.
Murphy said he started assembling the collection again this year in the middle of October, starting first with the spiderweb of wiring and putting on the finishing touches to the display just before Thanksgiving. All told it took about 70 hours -- 50 hours for the wiring and 20 to place the houses.
"Come January, it all comes down," Murphy said, laughing as he added that Pappalardo "cajoles" him into the inevitable task -- she wants her table back.