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Dent man shares impressive Christmas house collection

Ted Zitzow started collecting the decorations in 1995. Since then, his collection has only continued to grow.

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Ted Zitzow holds up one of his Christmas houses, which he has been collecting since the 1990s.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — Thirty years of dedication can create something that's quite impressive. When Ted Zitzow, who lives outside of Dent on West McDonald Lake, started collecting miniature Christmas houses when he moved to the area in 1995, he had no idea just how large his collection would grow.

He bought his first few home miniatures because the hardware store in Vergas carried them. He and his first wife, who later died in 2012, were drawn to these little decorations.

"That's how it got started," Zitzow said. "Sometimes we got one. Sometimes, you got two or three. You go out a lot of times in a row, and you find something."

Now, as of 2022, he has around 300 of the small, collectible homes — not even counting the smaller pieces. There are only two models that he has duplicates of. Other than that, each of the tiny displays sitting in Zitzow's home are unique. All of these little decorations take about two and a half weeks to set up each year when Christmas season comes around.

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The houses that Zitzow collects each individually light up.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

These miniature houses aren't the only Christmas decorations that Zitzow collects, however. The homes are all set up in their own tiny little villages, complete with people, cars and trains. Beneath his Christmas tree, there is even a fake harbor, complete with Noah's arc, rocks, docks, more boats and even tiny fishers.

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With trains that move and each house lit up in its own unique way, the villages set up throughout Zitzow's residence come to life. He has several different set-ups in his home, and even his garage is dedicated to its own miniature light-up town.

"If you count all the little cars and the people, I suppose everything adds up to about 1,000 (pieces) or more," Zitzow said.

He's always been a bit of a collector, and Christmas is his favorite holiday. He already dedicates a lot of time decorating for other holidays, having large inflatables to display in his yard during Halloween, but Christmas is something special to him. He enjoys dedicating time to celebrating the holidays through decorating.

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The Christmas houses set up in Zitzow's home line step after step, going to the ceiling.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

There are a lot of memories attached to his collection as well. Each and every piece is filled with life and stories. One time, his second wife — who Zitzow married in 2013 — was looking at miniature houses for sale in a magazine. The two of them decided to get one and each wrote a check in order to split the cost.

The company they ordered from, however, assumed that they wanted two of these collectibles, not one, due to the multiple checks. So, they just laughed, paid the rest of the money and kept the duplicates.

Another memory that stands out is the time he entered his second wife's sewing room and saw that she also had several miniature houses on display. Those ones, however, weren't painted.

"I sat in her living room for a whole month," Zitzow recalled. "I sat down and painted them."

From there, he and his second wife added these homes to the collection. They still sit between all the other collectibles today, hand-painted. Zitzow's second wife died earlier in 2022, but memories of their time together can be found all throughout the collection.

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Zitzow estimates that he's collected over 300 individual Christmas houses since he first started collecting in the 1990s.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

While Zitzow doesn't keep all the homes lit up throughout the holiday season due to large electric bills, he'll turn them on for company and show off his display. His neighbors on West McDonald Lake, in particular, really love it. One even described it as one of the most impressive Christmas displays he's ever seen.

Zitzow has also been able to share his passion for this collection with his family. After his first wife died, he gave each of his eight grandchildren one of his trains.

Zitzow knows all the details of his collection, recalling everything from the way their roofs are designed to the colors they're painted with. When the paint fades or pieces start to fall apart, he's always right there to fix them. He's dedicated a lot of time, energy and love to his Christmas collection.

"You could say half of (my collection is) with my first wife, and the other half the second wife," he said when explaining the memories attached to his collection. "I collected, and I didn't want to give up."

The holiday season is a time to celebrate, and Zitzow and his home's Christmas decorations really do show that it's the time of cheer.

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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