A Christmas collecting couple

STEUBENVILLE – With 180 Department 56 Christmas in the City pieces, more than 200 snowmen, a couple hundred Santa Clauses and a Hallmark tree with ornaments galore, you could say Kenny Kaine and Joyce Marsh are a couple of collectors pretty fond of the holidays.

The living room of their Steubenville home is testimony to that, a place where the decorations dazzle visitors.

There’s a lot for the eye to behold.

A custom-made set of shelves, for example, courtesy of Kaine’s carpentry skills, showcase the Christmas in the City collection amassed since 1990, the year the two took an interest in collecting.

Kaine offers an explanation of why that is.

“When I was growing up, we used to have a train layout, and my brother and I every Christmas we put out the train layout with houses and the whole works,” Kaine said.

“Then when we got together, we decided let’s start this village,” he said.

The couple discovered that they especially like Department 56 Christmas in the City, “the specific theme” of what has become a year-round display in a living room that they said really doesn’t get used.

In the off season, the collection gets covered up and camouflaged, but come Thanksgiving time, viola! There it is.

The display is ready to be enjoyed yet again after some “fresh snow” is added, and Marsh does some collection housekeeping, “dusting” the pieces with a little paint brush.

“We had eight when we first started in 1990,” Marsh said of that collection, noting they have supplemented it through the years.

“We have others, some Lemax, but we do have a lot of Department 56 Christmas in the City,” Marsh said.

The Department 56 Christmas in the Village, according to its website, is a series of “hand-painted porcelain houses, people and accessories.” It was introduced in 1987 and reflects a village that “offers dozens of places to live, shop, work, dine and enjoy the cultural opportunities of the city.”

Up until about four years ago, the two engaged in what was a labor-intensive setup of the display.

“It took weeks to put it up,” Kaine said of the decorating process, removing from boxes all the village buildings, not to mention trees, people, street lights and other accessories.

“It was time consuming,” Marsh added. “It got to be a hassle.”

The shelves offered a practical solution to that.

The two have collected village pieces to some degree locally, but also as gifts and in their traveling motor home days with the find-and-purchase pursuit always a joy.

“Now we find a lot of this stuff on eBay,” Kaine said.

Having it as part of their holiday decorations is a pleasure, according to Marsh.

“We just enjoy the village itself, seeing it all lit up,” she said of what’s appreciated as well by their family, including 13 grandchildren.

And that’s not just the Department 56 Christmas in the Village items.

“I love my Hallmark tree,” Marsh said of the holiday fir that boasts close to 200 ornaments.

And they each have a passion as well for Santa Clauses and snowmen.

For more than 10 years, Marsh has been collecting snowmen and Kaine, Santa Clauses.

The snowmen number 225; Santa Claus, a couple hundred.

“It just grew into something,” Kaine said of the little-then-lots journey of collecting the holiday icons.

“We do like to collect,” Marsh agreed.

“It puts you in the Christmas mood,” he said, “and it’s a fulfilling thing. You look at it, and you enjoy it.”

It’s also a through-the-years reminder of Christmases past.

But in addition to their own enjoyment, the two like the reaction of the grandchildren to it all.

“They get a kick out of all this,” Kaine said.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)