It's the time of year for many to venture deep into closets, attics or basements and pull out the box of lights, ornaments, stockings and other holiday decorations. Some collections span two or three boxes. Vicky McCourt, of Port Republic, has a collection that can fill a hall.

That's exactly what she has done in her 18 years as manager of the Chestnut Lake Campground in Port Republic, where at the close of each camping season, she and the family members who work with her unpack the collection to fill the sizable back room of the campground office.

Christmas decorations, McCourt said, have always been her passion.

"When my kids were little, I always decorated the whole house. It wasn't just 'put up a tree.' I did the walls. I did everything," McCourt said. "Everybody kept giving me things, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger."

As McCourt's collection grew, the displays became more elaborate. This year's display is a winter scene of dozens of glowing ceramic houses and Christmas trees on rolling hills of snow-like cotton. Full-size trees decorated with colorful ornaments dot the room.

McCourt and others have worked tirelessly since the end of the campground's traditional season on Oct. 15 to have the decorations ready in time for Christmas.

Daughter-in-law Heather Imperatore, who worked closely with McCourt in putting the display together, said setting it up was an ordeal, but it has been worth it.

"(We worked) every day. Sometimes we come over here first thing in the morning, like 8, and sometimes we're still here at 8 at night," Imperatore said.

On Dec. 12, McCourt unveiled the finished display at a holiday party, which included a visit from Santa Claus, for family, friends and members of the community.

Vicky's oldest daughter, Vickie Belber, attended the party with her 2-year-old twins Abby and Zack. Despite her having grown up seeing her mother's work each season, Belber found herself impressed by the 2012 display.

"Very good, they did a really good job," Belber said. "Beautiful. I like all the different colors."

Attendees were invited to bring their kids to sit on Santa's lap. Parents were asked to bring gifts for Santa's elf to pull from a big velvet bag to give to their child.

Wayne Grove, whose brother is one of Vicky's sons-in-law, donated several Webkinz stuffed animals that were also given out as presents.

Grove brought his 8-month-old daughter, Kylie, to the party. While she was too young to understand the significance of Santa or sit on his lap, she got into the Christmas spirit.

"She's pretty good," Grove said. "She waves at Santa and everything. She starts getting really excited."

While Kylie might be an easy one to please, she wasn't the only one left taking childlike pleasure in Christmas.

"I love it. It's more than what I expected," Grove said. "Vicky went all out this year. It looks really great."

The hall is open to visitors by appointment. Those interested can reach the campground office at 609-652-1005. The display will be up through at least the first week of January, Imperatore said.

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-272-7415