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Perry Hall Christmas Garden Enchants Visitors, Feeds the Hungry

Holiday attraction is going on its sixth year.

If you hold your ear close to the miniature boardwalk, you can hear the ocean and seagulls.

More sound recordings are someĀ of many recent improvements to Jim Lanahan and Donald Thompson's , open to the public from the basement of their Perry Hall home.

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For the past six years, the roommates, both in their mid-50s, have constructed an elaborate miniature interpretation of the state of Maryland, including Deep Creek Lake, Ocean City, Baltimore rowhomes and even .

Visitors must make appointments to visit the garden. Smaller groups are best to avoid congestion in the walkway around the garden, Lanahan said. The admission cost, as in previous years, is a for the Eastern Family Resource Center.

About 300 people, ranging from local residents to New Englanders, visited the garden last year. It draws people of all ages and interests, Lanahan said.

"Older people who come with their grandkids, they always talk about nostalgia. This brings back memories for the older people, and for the younger people, it's a new learning experience," he said.

While the concept of the garden is traditional, many of its components are state of the art, Thompson said.

"In a train garden, the only thing you see moving are the trains. Whereas, in a Christmas garden, you have a lot more movement. In the carnival area, you have actual rides. The mountain has actual water for a waterfall," he said.

The garden boasts more than 400 structures, in addition to the dozens of figurines thatĀ populate it.

Lanahan first began constructing gardens with his mother, who recently passed away.

"I learned different things from her, but the No. 1 rule was, make sure you've got a lot of people," he said.

This year, a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts was added, as well as a Lowe's Home Improvement, a Lands' End clothing store and others.

Lanahan, a purchasing agent, and Thompson, a clerk at , said they've lost track of the amount of money they've invested into the garden.

"I'll put it in two words: a lot," Lanahan said.

Their reward for constructing the garden is the amount of food they collect for those in need, they said. Last year, the men transported four carloads of donations to the Eastern Family Resource Center.

"I've always spent my life doing things for other people because I felt it was better to give than to receive," Lanahan said.

"What I enjoy is we know we're helping others," Thompson said.

Visitors must call 410-529-1457 to make an appointment and for directions to the home at 6 Bellington Court in Perry Hall. The garden will be open 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays between Nov. 26 and Jan. 7.

Do you have a favorite train garden in the area? Tell us in the comments.

Melissa Mosier Krysiak November 30, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Is there a certain number they look for in a 'group' or can I just take my kids? lol It looks awesome!
Emily Kimball (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 05:39 PM
They generally want to keep it under 10 people, but definitely give them a call at the number listed.

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