PRINEVILLE, Ore. (AP) — For Beth Grimes, her Christmas display of miniatures known as the Grimes Christmas Scene provides an annual opportunity to catch up with longtime friends and acquaintances.
"Why have something if you don't share it?" Grimes, 72, said. "I enjoy seeing the people. We're on the third generation with some families."
On Sunday afternoon, Grimes noticed a woman about to leave the exhibit at the Crook County Fairgrounds. "You're more than welcome to have a cookie, Gloria," Grimes said.
Gloria Wilcox, 80, stopped for a cookie and said she has been visiting the Grimes Christmas Scene for decades. "I remember when you had it in your living room," Wilcox told Grimes. "How long's that been?"
The tradition began in 1959 when Beth Grimes' mother-in-law, Letha Grimes, gave her a small collection of miniature houses to set up for Christmas. Grimes said she and her husband, Jay Grimes, used to set up the miniatures in their home and invited the community to visit. In 1993, when more than 2,000 people stopped by in the month before Christmas, the Grimeses decided to look for another location. The display moved from one building to another, including empty storefronts and the Bowman Museum Annex. There were some years without a public display, due to family illness or lack of a venue, but Grimes said the family always had a small Christmas village at home.
The display opened the day after Thanksgiving and is now open Wednesday through Sunday, through Dec. 24. Admission is free. The items on display this year are only part of Grimes' collection.
"Venues I'm in are smaller, so not everything is out," Grimes said. For insurance purposes, she estimated there were 20,000 to 30,000 pieces in the family's collection.
In the past, Grimes set up much of the display on her own. This year, half a dozen friends pitched in to unpack and arrange the pieces.
"In May, I went through another bout of breast cancer, and I'm receiving treatment," Grimes said. "I need help. ... Just unpacking these things is huge."
The friends who helped Grimes set up this season worked with her in the records imaging department at Les Schwab. They were laid off in October, when the department shut down and the work was outsourced, Grimes said. She worked for the company 34 years, most recently as a supervisor.
"We're at loose ends and that gave us a chance to have our hands and our minds busy for a while," Grimes said of setting up and publicizing the Christmas Scene.
Grimes said children often gravitate toward the mechanical items in the Christmas display. She is looking forward this week, when she expects to receive a "Santa slide" she ordered through eBay. A previous slide, with motorized Santas that slid up and down the toy, broke, and it has taken Grimes a long time to find a replacement.
On Sunday, Mesa Whitmore, 6, walked through the display with her family. Mesa said her favorite part of the display was a mechanical stuffed bear reading a book to a baby bear. Mesa said she liked the bear "because it moves."
Her brother Tehl Whitmore, 8, was also a fan of the mechanical pieces. Tehl said his favorite was the circus display, which features swinging acrobats and a group of performers balanced on a bicycle, riding across a high wire. "I like the lions," Tehl said, pointing to several lions sitting on the floor of the circus. Grimes said she added the circus piece this year.
"It's something," Wilcox said. "You're always just in awe of it."
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press