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During holiday season, Shippensburg’s ‘Tiny Town’ draws from all over

18 December 2012 No Comment

SHIPPENSBURG — Rice Road in Shippensburg could be considered “the road less traveled,” providing a quiet trip through the fields of northern Franklin County. But, anyone who does decide to take the scenic route may see a sight that won’t soon be forgotten.

“Tiny World” was established by Ernest Helm in 1985 after his retirement from DeRose Industries in Chambersburg. The first structure was a Victorian-style “cat house” for the felines who roamed his property to enjoy. It wasn’t long before he began building other miniature structures, and within a few years, an entire town had taken shape.

Helm and his family members knew they had created something special when people driving by started stopping their cars before getting out and looking around. Seeing scaled-down versions of common community sights such as a fire hall, courthouse and general store had undoubtedly captured the attention of these unexpected guests. A retired man’s hobby had officially become a roadside attraction.

Helm’s daughter and son-in-law have helped keep Tiny World operating for nearly 20 years. Donna Myers adds wallpaper and other furnishings to help ensure that each building is as authentic as possible. Her husband, Wendell, points out that they’re all handmade, using real shingles and genuine siding.

Although the small structures can be seen throughout the year, visiting them at night in December is an extra-special experience. Christmas lights and other decorations help bring the buildings to life, creating an atmosphere of holiday cheer. Hot chocolate is available for guests to enjoy, and a detailed train exhibit is set up in what normally serves as a storage shed.

School field trips to Tiny World are also scheduled at this time of the year. Wendell Myers says students are only a few of the names on the guest list that continue to surprise him.

“We get calls from people who have questions about our hours of operation or what the weather is like in our area because they’re preparing to make a two-hour trip to visit us. It makes me think, ‘Really? You’re coming all that way just to see this?’ It’s amazing.”

Tiny World is open from 5 – 8 p.m. on weeknights and 5 – 10 p.m. on weekends. The holiday display will be up and running through the first week of January. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

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