‘Our gift to the city’: A true labor of love created in 1972, ABQ’s Winter Wonderland delights people from all over the world
Leo Frechette finishes up last-minute touches to the Winter Wonderland at his mother’s home on Monroe Street in Northeast Albuquerque. (Chancey Bush/)
Madeleine Young and her one-year-old daughter Adelice view the miniature village modeled after Albuquerque on display at the Winter Wonderland in Northeast Albuquerque. (Chancey Bush/)
Jeanette Padilla laughs while getting her photo taken with Santa Claus at the Winter Wonderland. (Chancey Bush/)
Claire Adams, 5, and her father Bryan Adams explore the decorations at the Winter Wonderland. (Chancey Bush/)
More than 12,000 pieces are used to create the miniature village modeled after Albuquerque, complete with iconic landmarks and hot-air balloons. (Chancey Bush/)
Even Santa Claus visits the Winter Wonderland. (Chancey Bush/)
It started on a card table.
In 1972, Carol Ifversen began creating her own miniature Christmas village, a tradition passed down by her mother. As the years went by, the village grew in size, moving from the card table to filling the front room window of her residence at 715 Monroe St. NE.
Ifversen’s oldest son, Leo Frechette, moved back home in 1992 and watched his mother spend the whole month of November setting up the village, hoping to share the magic with people passing by. But nobody stopped to look, and that’s when Frechette got an idea.
He began to transform the front yard into an enchanted Christmas scene — stringing lights of all colors, hanging ornaments of all sizes, placing interactive toys and moving figurines along the path. His creation is similar to a Christmas maze, guiding onlookers to the window for the grand finale. That year, in 1993, Winter Wonderland was born.
Today, the Christmas village in the window is well over 12,000 pieces, with a couple more thousand not displayed. The village is not an entirely made-up place; it is Albuquerque. Hot air balloons hang from the ceiling, floating above Highland High School and the iconic Frontier Restaurant, to name but a few.
Winter Wonderland is so big that even Santa Claus comes to visit.
“People come from all over the world, not just Albuquerque,” said Ifversen, who just turned 80 in August.
Winter Wonderland continues to grow every year. Children receive books, candy canes and toys; creating smiles is what it is all about.
“It’s our gift to the city,” Frechette said.