TARPON SPRINGS — George Gyde has big hands, carpenter's hands, that have logged years of experience pounding nails and operating power tools.
But each November, he unpacks tiny figurines and snow-dusted houses and manipulates the miniature pieces to transform his sunroom into a magical holiday village.
"My brothers and I talk about how different it is watching Dad work with delicate things," said Gyde's daughter, Dawn Harrison, 38. "It's such a contrast in his personality, and we love it."
Inside Gyde's Tarponaire Mobile Resort home, his holiday village shimmers with a nostalgia reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Church lights glow.
A firefighter and a Dalmatian relax outside the firehouse.
Reindeer, squirrels and raccoons dot the countryside.
Cable cars ascend a mountain, and a cloud drifts overhead. In one valley, a horse-drawn wagon carries Christmas trees. A bush plane with floats stands on an icy lake, and on a nearby rink, ice skaters swirl.
Each year, the scenes change. No one, not even Gyde, knows what he will add. Or what someone may leave on his doorstep.
This is the 10th year he has done the display, but he almost didn't put it up this year after he suffered a broken leg in a freak accident. In August, he was standing in the yard of his Michigan home when a passing trailer in tow lost a wheel that struck him and shattered his leg in four places.
"I have a metal shaft down my leg," said Gyde, 73. "I can't drive. For now, I have this cane. There was no way I could have constructed the village by myself."
Because of the injury, Harrison offered to drive her father and her mother, Muriel, 72, from Michigan to Florida and stay awhile to help put together this year's village.
"I couldn't have done it without her," Gyde said.
The village stands on a platform 28 feet long by 3 feet wide, although it extends to 7 feet wide at one point.
Gyde first builds the base, then covers it with white sheets and cotton batting. The entire display has a pleated red skirt tacked around the edges to hide storage boxes for the 300-plus pieces.
After the landscape is in, Gyde precisely places each figure, house, stump, mailbox and building in its spot to create separate areas within the display.
One area is a ski resort with slopes and a lodge. Another flickers with candles in the windows of Victorian homes. There is a town center with a bowling alley and a bingo hall, and a farmhouse with wooden fences. There also are cobblestone paths, a campground with a campfire, telephone booths and clock towers. Trains chug over tracks that run along rivers, lakes, rolling hills and valleys.
Paul and Ellen Haynes, 10-year park residents, have admired Gyde's display every year.
"Each time we go, we see something new. Every year it grows," said Ellen Haynes. "It's wonderful to walk through and look at something so beautiful."
Gyde begins work on the village in early November and keeps it up through February, but additions are made year-round. Some pieces cost a few dollars. Some are donated by friends.
Collectibles and reproductions have run the Gydes more than $125, with many items coming from the Department 56 collectible series. Others came from department stores, hardware stores or auctions.
The collection began with a calliope that Gyde's son, Raymond, gave him for Christmas in 1994.
"Dad and I spent 50 hours on his mini metropolis," Harrison said with a laugh.
Then she grew serious. "I love the connection the village has built between us."
Muriel Gyde likes to sit in a chair at night and simply admire her husband's handiwork, but he isn't content unless he's rearranging or adding pieces.
"I'm looking for more houses, not shops." Gyde said. "Oh, and a casino. I have a casino bus, but for now it's parked outside the bingo hall."