Starting your own Halloween village can be a very intimidating endeavor. It’s easy to look at some of the extravagant displays found on the internet and think “Why should I bother? I’ll never have enough money, time, and/or skill to do something that looks that cool.”
I know about this first hand, as that’s where I was a couple years ago. Despite enjoying the annual scene setup at a local pumpkin patch each fall (seen in a gallery below), I figured it was a fool’s errand to try. This was a big mistake!
You don’t need a gigantic display that costs thousands of dollars to have a good time. In fact, the vast majority of hobbyists just have a small setup on a shelf, counter, or table. My first display (seen above) was small but I still loved it!
My personal story aside, here are some tips that I’ve picked up that I think many noobs would do good to know.
The Differences In Brands
One of the first things that a prospective newbie will surely wonder about is if there are any differences between brands. Maybe you aren’t even aware that multiple companies cater to this hobby. Regardless, here’s a brief overview.
Lemax Spooky Town – One of the “big 2”, Lemax is probably the most popular company when it comes to Halloween villaging. They started doing Spooky Town in the early 2000’s. Their wares can be had each year at Michaels stores from August-October. Spooky Town buildings, particularly the big ones, are known for having vivid lighting, sounds, and animation. They are also relatively affordable as most of the buildings go from $25-$80 (either using a Michaels coupon or from an online retailer). Construction and paint quality ranges from decent to great. Lemax produces the biggest buildings and figures compared to the other 2 on this list, although it’s really just a slight difference.
Department 56 Snow Village Halloween – The second of the “big 2”, Department 56 has been doing Halloween for many years. These can be a bit trickier to find in person as you’ll need to find a specialty craft dealer that carries the product. You can also order online from a myriad of sellers. Quality paint jobs are the name of the game as the fit and finish of D56 is typically superior to all others. That comes at a cost as they are the most expensive- most buildings and accessories retail for around $70-$130. While some of their offerings feature animation and special lighting, the vast majority are static and are lit up from the inside by light bulb. They are also slightly smaller in scale versus Lemax.
Hawthorne Village, sold by the Bradford Exchange, is a third option for those looking to get their village on. While my hands-on experience with them is limited (as are others I’ve talked to), from what I’ve seen they are smaller, close to D56. The detail on some of their buildings is fantastic, others leave something to be desired. They are also fairly pricey, but many of the pieces have official licenses you can’t get anywhere else (Peanuts, Nightmare Before Christmas). These are only sold online.
Each company offers a wide selection of spooky constructions so you really can’t go wrong. The display above shows that you can mix and match buildings between companies with great results as well. This also happened to be the display that got me interested in villaging!
Start With A Specific Building or Theme
The best advice I can give to someone starting out is get one particular building that tickles your fancy and start from there. Using my example above, a Dr. Stretch & Pull’s Torture Factory was where I started. I then just went from there, picking and choosing.
And if you can’t choose one particular building, I’d at least suggest having a look around online and picking a specific theme. Some like amusement parks, some witches, others ghost pirates; there are so many collections available that it can help save yourself hassle to identify what you like early and try and stick to that.
Use Michaels Coupons
If you are purchasing from Michaels without a 40% or 50% off coupon, you are throwing away money! Signing up for Michaels’ e-mail newsletter is a valuable thing to do as they are constantly offering discounts. So much so that you should never pay retail! I’m no company shill and dislike junk e-mail as much as the next guy, but seriously, you are doing yourself a disservice to not sign up. You can also just visit their website to print off a coupon, but many times the e-mail offering is actually better.
Don’t Overthink It & Have Fun
If you love Halloween and think the miniatures look cool then you’ll have fun, no matter what. Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to get in…just make sure you that do get in.
Whether you want to display one building on your mantle or carve a massive custom layout out of foam & wood, chances are that you’ll have a blast doing it and be angry that you didn’t get involved sooner!
Good luck and Happy Haunting in 2016!