The Gathering Committee is currently working to provide you with informative and fun seminars. 

The following is a list of presenters(*) for the Gathering.  We are still working on the specifics of each seminar, but listed is the general topic they will be presenting.  

Susan Azar - Department 56, President

Melinda Seegers -Department 56, Consumer Services

Barbara Lund - Department 56, Designer and Artist

Pat and John Ehrenreich - Make It Easy and Gotta Shop Around

Will Holt - Towns and Trains

Town and Trains will cover the various gauges and scale available and compare them to some samples of Department 56 ceramic buildings.

Joe Meyers, Jeff McCann and Linda Roberts - Make Something Happen in Your Village 

Make Something Happen in Your Village is about bringing life and reality to your village in a very humorous and nostalgic way.  Getting your guests to stop and take a second look at your village, by creating “happenings” is what this presentation is all about.  Displays using Ideas from fellow Queen City Villagers (Greater Cincinnati area) will be presented.  After hearing our easy to implement ideas, you’ll never display your village the same way again.

Stephen Pepin - Enhancing Villages with Special Effects 

Enhancing Villages with Special Effects is about using lights, sounds and other effects to make your village displays more interesting.

Miles Wood and Thomas Taylor - Landscaping for Beginners

Jill Schlung - Foam Carving & Displays

David and Linda Spears - Look what we found!!!!

Look what we found!!! - you never know where you might discover what (even if you aren't looking).  This seminar will include many ideas, solutions, hints and "finds" for accessorizing your Dept. 56 village.  They will have 'stuff" and photos to share.  There will be  a handout for those attending.

Tim Stephenson - Northween and Hallowpole


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Sue Azar has been part of Department 56 since 2006 when she was hired as the Director of Village Marketing. She later moved into several other roles, Head of Sales, Head of Marketing and General Manager. She now is leading us as President of Department 56.  

Sue has worked hard to keep Department 56 the premier brand that you have all come to know and love. “As many of you are aware, the last five years have been a bit tumultuous for Department 56, but I have always been proud to be with this company. I make it my personal mission to stay true to the values that formed the foundation of this brand.”  

Prior to working at Department 56, Sue worked for Lenox China Company and Marshall Field’s Department Store. Sue is a native of Wisconsin and is married with two grown daughters, and two cats. And – she collects “Christmas In The City.”  

Melinda Seegers has been with Department 56 since 1989 and began by working with collectors answering questions on the 1(800) LIT TOWN telephone line and written correspondence. Over the years she has gained valuable knowledge of Department 56 products: the Villages, Snowbabies, and the giftware products and is considered to be the company historian. Today Melinda heads the Consumer Services department which is responsible for answering not only the telephone calls from collectors, but all written correspondence and emails. Consumer Services also handles the sale of important replacement parts and all consumer warranty claims. She is often called upon to answer questions regarding older and obscure Village pieces and discontinued giftware items and is in charge of the company’s official archives.

Melinda writes for the Department 56 web site and "Village D-Lites" magazine and has had the opportunity to represent Department 56 at many open houses at retail stores and at collector events throughout the United States.  These events have given her the opportunity to meet collectors, answer their questions and provide informational seminars.

Melinda has a number of Village pieces, some she displays year round, others come out only for the holidays.  Christmas is and always has been her favorite holiday.  Decorating the family Christmas has become more fund since working at Department 56.

When not at work Melinda spends time with her other passion - quilting.  Melinda collects fabric the way other people collect lighted houses and has a stash that will last a good long time, but that does not stop her from acquiring more.

Melinda and her husband live close enough to their three children and their families to see them regularly.  They enjoy many outdoor activities together including camping and are avid Viking football fans.


Barbara Lund has designed Village pieces for Dickens’ Village, New England Village, Alpine Village and the North Pole for the last 24 years. 

“The Smoking Bishop” limited edition pub for the Dickens’ Village is a particular favorite of Barbara’s. “It’s a direct reference to A Christmas Carol which was the very early idea behind the entire Dickens’ Village. A Christmas Carol is one of the best known and most loved redemption stories in Western literature. Through a night of fantastic circumstances a broken, bitter man learns the meaning of love and how much a generous heart can impact the world. He is transformed and each time we hear his story we are reminded that each of us can have an impact too, however humble or grand. At the end of this story Mr. Scrooge invites Bob to have a bowl of Smoking Bishop which was a Christmas punch made of good wine, port, spices and fruit; things only the wealthy could afford. To the 19th century reader this would signal prosperity and a happy future for the Cratchit family.  When we decided to add a pub to the 2011 collection, I thought this would be the perfect name.” 

When asked about a particular piece that she like to design, Barbara told about her idea for a starch factory for New England Village. “The history of starch is fascinating and while we may give it short shrift today, it was an integral commodity during the Industrial Revolution when hundreds of thousands of people moved from rural areas to jobs in cities where there were expectations for appearance even for the most humble worker. In 19th Century America, huge factories were built to fulfill the demand. I don’t know if we will ever make a starch factory, but I sure like the idea.” 

Like the other Village artists, Barbara enjoys meeting the collectors. “These trips give me the opportunity to understand how really important the Villages are to so many families at Christmas time. The ritual of creating each Village in a home was always at the center of my mother’s idea at the inception of Dickens’ Village. I feel this when I meet collectors. That is part of my family tradition.” 

Stephen Pipen is originally from Montreal, Canada and started playing model railroading when he was 12.  In 2003, he visited Salem, Massachusetts, around Halloween time and came across Department 56 Halloween buildings at a small shop.  The passion for villages ignited at that very moment, with over 200 buildings in his collection currently.

Stephen's main collection series are Christmas in the City, Winters Frost and Halloween, but he also collects his favorite pieces of all the other village series.  Stephen runs a small business called Showcase Displays, primarily creating custom display bases for village collectors.  He is a regular contributor to the Village D-Lights magazine with his Village Workshop column. and teaches village display classes at Millie's Hallmark in Phoenix.  For the Chicago 2012 Gathering, Stephen will present a seminar titled Enhancing Village with Special Effects. 

John and Pat Ehrenreich began collection D56 with Dickens in 1988 and how have many houses and accessories from all of the Villages.  They found out quickly how much they loved to make displays and each year the displays got bigger and more detailed.  Then, Pat began finding miniatures while she was out shopping to make their displays even more interesting and eye appealing.  Over the years, they have written about their displays and techniques, taught workshops and created local dealer displays.  They are also long time, active members of their local Department 56 club.

More recently, they became representatives of the Hot Wire Foam Factory’s Styrofoam cutting and carving tools also demonstrating the products and display techniques. Pat still loves shopping around and making accessories with bought items and, together, they still love creating unique Department 56 displays.  For the Chicago 2012 Gathering, John and Pat will do two different seminars, Make it Easy and Gotta Shop Around, with many ideas you can easily recreate for your villages.

They will be creating a vignette titled: North Pole, My Kind of Town.


Joe Meyers, Jeff McCann and Linda Roberts are all members of the Queen City Villagers.  They collect Snow Village (Joe), North Pole (Jeff), Dickens (Linda), Christmas in the City (Linda) and dabble in Peanuts, Christmas Story, and the Baseball Parks 

Joe is the President of the Queen City Villagers and recently won last year’s Display contest in the Village Delights with his Snow Village display “The Lights are Always Brighter Downtown”.  You may remember his session at the Seasons of Michigan Gathering titled “How to Display your Village Church”.  Joe likes to use foam core when displaying his buildings to enhance their stature in the display.

Jeff publishes the Queen City Villager News Letter and keeps our ship running smoothly.  His specializes in using Styrofoam for his displays.  He has a degree in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati.

Linda has designed shoes in her former life.  Her creativity stems from building her dollhouse and incorporating dollhouse miniatures into the villages.  Linda has a B.S. degree in Fine Arts from the University of Cincinnati.  She has given several presentations to the Queen City Villagers on how to do small displays using one or two buildings, and how to use handcrafted items in your villages such as parade floats, flag poles, fences, and topiaries.  

For the Chicago 2012 Gathering, Joe, Jeff ,and Linda will be presenting a seminar titled, Make Something Happen in Your Village.

Thomas Taylor and Miles L. Wood - Tom started collecting Dickens Village in 1987-88.  He owns all of the buildings through 2001 except the original Village Mill.   Tom also has the original Disney Village pieces.  Miles started collecting later and has a large Alpine Village collection. Both Tom and Miles are members of the Valley Villagers of Sacramento, participating in all of the Sacramento gatherings.  They have conducted very successful seminars on creating wonderful scenery for villages using very low tech methods in the first three of the Los Angeles Gatherings and in Dallas and San Antonio Gatherings.
For the Chicago 2012 Gathering they will be presenting a seminar titled Landscaping for Beginners.

Jill Schlung's passion for visual design culminated in a position in 1995 creating displays for Department 56.  She has traveled the U.S. building displays for corporate stores and showrooms.  Career design highlights include building a 20x70 foot display of Snow Village for the 25th Anniversary of Snow village and being a featured guest in a Christmas special on HGTV’s “Decorating Cents”.  Jill’s favorite part of her job is sharing ideas with collectors and seeing the reaction from people when they see the villages and get caught up in the magic.
For the Chicago 2012 Gathering Jill will be presenting a seminar on Foam Carving and Displays.

Will Holt, though now retired has spend almost 40 years in a career of planning and logistical support for corporate meetings, trade shows and special events, including audio visual products for events and general public information.  He frequently consults with several manufacturers and publishers in the model railroad industry.  He currently is the regular columnist for "Model Railroad New" concerning S scale model railroading and also authors and publishes several model railroading publications.  His wife, Kelly, has a village display that is part of their Christmas decor.  For the Chicago 2012 Gathering, he will be doing a seminar titled Towns and Trains which will discuss various gauges and scales available and how they relate to the Department 56 buildings.

David and Linda Spears live in Duluth, MN.  Creating new display ideas is their primary interest in working with villages.  Both are members of their local Village North Collectors Club.

They do their own backgrounds, foregrounds, trees, water, waterfalls, tunnels, mountains and other smaller items.  David writes "Just so you know!" - a regular column in Village D-Lights.  Volume II of Village Display Tips included several of their ideas and photographs.

They have been making displays and learning, for seventeen years.  During that time their village has grown from fourteen to over one hundred seventy 'lit houses."  Most are from Department 56, a few are from Lemax, Coca Cola and others. 

David and Linda conducted popular seminars at the Minnesota Gathering 2002, Green Bay 2006, and Minnesota 2008.  Their display shared the "People's Choice" award in Detroit 2010.  They have done display classes for local Community Ed and Dept. 56 dealers, as well as stores in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Their other common interests include flower gardening, photography and country dancing.  Linda also enjoys designing and making greeting cards.

David was the Village North Collectors Club representative to the National Council of 56 Clubs and later the NCC Region VI Representative for four years.  David is a moderator of Dept. 56 Group on Yahoo.

For the Chicago 2012 Gathering, they will do a seminar titled Look What We Found!!!, which will include many ideas, solutions, hints and "finds" for accessorizing your Dept. 56 village.  They will have "stuff" and photos to share.  There will be a handout for those attending their seminar.

Tim Stephenson, "The Display Guru", and his wife Patti are the owners of Pretty Petals.  Their unique business has thousands of quality miniatures and every possible display item to help make your Department 56 Village the envy of your neighbors.  Tim has spoken across the country at different Department 56 Collector Gatherings, has been featured in various magazine talking about display tips, and has had featured article in Village D-Lights.  He loves what he does and enjoys sharing what he knows.  At the Chicago Gathering, his seminar will be on "Northween and Hallowpole", hmmmm - sounds interesting!  There will display tips for every village including mountain making and water.

(*) Presenters are subject to change 

Please check back often, as we will be updating this list as more presenters are confirmed and the specifics of each seminar are finalized.