Have you ever been to Santa’s Village at the North Pole?
Well, in case you don’t have enough Air Miles saved up to get there, Ben and Millie Lindal are the caretakers of the next best thing in Arbor Vitae.
By Santa’s sleigh, it sits about 15 minutes northeast of Rainy River. By car, one takes Highway 11 to Pinewood. Then heading north on Highway 619 to Sutherland Road #3, one travels east for a few minutes.
Coming over the top of a hill, one can see the glow of Santa’s Village from at least a mile away.
Millie Lindal started decorating their Arbor Vitae home in 1995 and has seen her display there grow year after year. In fact, the thousands of lights that adorn every tree in the yard, their house, a nativity scene, and several big and small seasonal sculptures are just the icing on the cake.
To truly appreciate the village, one has to get a tour of the inside of the house, too.
Inside, there is a loft filled with animated characters. There is a 12-foot Christmas tree in the main living area and another fully-decorated one in the spare room. That room also is guarded by wooden soldiers that she has collected over the years.
Lindal said she used to do a huge gingerbread village before she and Ben moved to Arbor Vitae to retire. That, she noted, would encompass working at least 26 hours straight.
Now, she has switched to lit displays; doing a little some days and a lot on others. She begins about Nov. 1 and usually has everything done by Dec. 10.
They welcome the public to come out and see the display but note people shouldn’t arrive until after 6 p.m. as they are not always home until then to turn it on. They usually leave it lit until about 10 p.m., and run the show until just after Ukrainian Christmas.
Adding to the festive atmosphere is Mother Nature’s touch, or perhaps they are Rudolph wannabes! Wild deer frequent the yard, eating a few treats put out by Ben each day. They also have had bears visit the display as well as flying squirrels and foxes.
“It really adds to the spirit of things,” said Millie.
Still, Mother Nature also has had few little devils hindering the display. One year, the flying squirrels decided to chew through many of the strings of lights and Ben had his work cut out repairing them.
He noted some of the deer also keep him busy running out to plug some of the lights back in as they trip over the cords and pull them out.
Lindal had to install two sub-panels to accommodate the power needs in the yard. And when one sees the display, you would think the hydro bill must be astronomical.
But he said it only goes up about $150-$200 for the month.
It takes a great deal of effort to collect all the different Christmas things that they have on display. Millie Lindal said she loves going to places like Victoria, B.C., where they have Christmas shops open all year round.
She also keeps her eyes open as they travel. She recalled one trip out west when they were at a hotel that had a huge display in their lobby. There was a tall Santa there that she wanted and she decided to buy it.
But getting it home was going to be a problem.
Lindal thought that if they picked up a body bag, they could put it in there and strap it to the top of the car. But her husband said there was no way he would drive across the prairies with what looked like a dead person strapped to the car.
So they paid for it and left it for about a year until their son, Lance, picked it up and brought it home.
The couple really enjoy showing their place to people and encourage people to come out. Last year, people from as far away as Fort Frances made the trek to Arbor Vitae.
Millie Lindal said she would leave it up year-round if Ben never said anything. But she also did admit that while she enjoys having it up for a couple of months, she also enjoys getting her house back when it is all taken down and put away.