The village of Gipe is bustling this season with visitors traveling from near and far.
The village of Gipe is bustling this season with visitors traveling from near and far. Trains and a trolley run continuously throughout town all evening long, while the villagers go about their business: Walking dogs, taking sleigh rides, creating snowmen, making toys, Christmas shopping, and even doing a bit of ice fishing. This picturesque scene stirs idyllic moments of a bygone era while at the same time ignites the vivid imagination of youngsters. The town is Bob’s Christmas Village, a labor of love that Bob Gipe began in his Chillicothe home in 1993. The village continues this year through his children. “For the little ones, the big draw is the trains,” said daughter, Cindy Baker. “I think it reminds adults of a simpler time and the joys of the Christmas season. It really seems to draw you in and allows you the chance to just stop and enjoy the scenes.” After his wife, Lavonne, passed away in June 1993, Gipe decided that he didn’t want to put up a Christmas tree for just himself. So, he decided to set out his village display – a total of seven lighted buildings and a train – in his front room window. His first buildings had been gifts for Christmas and his birthday and some he had purchased himself that year. Gipe had once commented that his wife was at the heart and soul of it all, according to Baker. “She was his inspiration,” she said. “He made his tribute to her and the life they had together.” From the very beginning, each year, the Christmas village display expanded and, each year, the number of people visiting the display increased. Gipe soon put out a sign welcoming visitors. In 2006, he added a guest book for visitors to sign. That year, he had about 2,500 visitors. His biggest year was in 2015, when 3,660 visitors had signed the guest book. “He was thrilled to have so many come by and it meant so much to our family as this turned out to be his last year,” Baker said. Gipe passed away on Oct. 28, 2016, and his family held the Christmas Village at his home on Deringer for the last time. During the months that followed, plans were made to continue Gipe’s spirit of sharing Christmas joy by relocating the village to the home of Dave and Cindy Baker, about seven miles west of Chillicothe. The Bakers took part of an existing building and converted it into use for the village. Family members joined in the relocation process and helped get the village established, the train tracks laid and the entire display landscaped. Those creating the village included Gipe’s son, Greg Gipe, his wife Luanne, and daughter, Madison; along with Dave and Cindy Baker and their son, Austin, and daughter, Shannon. The new location has more space for viewers to see more details of the display. Bob’s Christmas Village opened at its new location on Thanksgiving evening, as was tradition, and has already hosted more than 1,700 visitors. Although Bob’s Christmas Village is several miles outside of Chillicothe, the distance hasn’t slowed attendance. “No one has seemed to mind the drive and we appreciate everyone’s enthusiastic response to us continuing what our dad started,” Baker said. There are lighted 113 villages on display, two trains and a trolley. The display continues to warm the hearts of those who experience the village. As in earlier days, a guest book is set out for visitors to sign their names, write in their hometowns and leave messages, if they would like. Sharing his Christmas villages with the community was one of Gipe’s greatest joys, according to his children. “Dad looked forward to the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as much as any kid at Christmas,” Baker said. He enjoyed setting up his own little community and playing with trains. “Our family knew he was bringing joy to others, but I’m not sure the visitors to his village knew how much they brought to him with their “oohs and aahs’,” Baker said. And, he always got a laugh out of the little ones who had to be dragged away with parents promising they could come back another night. Now in its 25th year, the village has become a joy passed on to younger generations. “It is now a Christmas tradition for so many families and they look forward to returning year after year,” Baker said. “I think that is what is most touching for my family... that our tradition has come to mean so much to so many.”
View Bob's Christmas Village in this video link Click here
NEAR CHILLICOTHE: To reach the display, travel for seven miles west on Missouri Route 190 and turn right on Route A. The Christmas Village will be at the first house on the right side of the road. As in the past, the Christmas Village welcomes visitors from 5 until 10 p.m. each evening through New Year’s Eve. FACEBOOK: Bob’s Christmas Village has a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BobsChristmasVillage/ YOUTUBE: A video feature of the village, filmed and edited by Adam Mast, of Chillicothe, is found online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FgdJxSHr1M&feature=youtu.be