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Big debut for little winter village

A new display at the Brown County Historical Society Museum features ten winter models of famous New Ulm buildings. The miniatures were created by Pearl Roiger in the 1980s and 1990s. This is the first time the mini-village has been fully displayed.

NEW ULM — The Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) is celebrating a Merry ‘Little’ Christmas with its latest holiday display.

A miniature winter village featuring famous buildings from around New Ulm is open to the public on Friday and will remain open through December.

The mini-New Ulm village was created by Pearl Roiger. She built the models in the 1980s and 1990s, spending many hours creating extremely detailed recreations of some of New Ulm’s prominent and unique structures. Ten buildings are part of the display, including the Eagle Roller Mill, the Hermann Monument, the John Lind House, and the Wanda Gag House. Pearl Roiger displayed the village in her own home for many years before passing it to her son Pat Roiger. Pat has set it up in his home every year since then. This year Pat wanted more people to see the village and loaned it to BCHS for the season.

“My whole thought was ‘let people see it,'” Pat Roiger said. His mom created the village to be seen. She frequently invited people into her home to see the miniatures and Pat tried to do the same once he inherited it. BCHS was known for displaying the Menzel Christmas Village every few years, the Roiger New Ulm village was deemed an excellent addition.

Pat Roiger said this marks the first time all ten New Ulm miniatures have been displayed at once. Though the miniatures are relatively small, neither he nor his mom had enough room to show them all at one time.

All the miniatures in New Ulm village were handmade by Pearl Roiger using cardboard, balsa wood and metal caps. The only non-homemade components were the icicle decorations.

In setting up the New Ulm village Pat Roiger said he attempted to lay it out as accurately as possible based on geography, but admits some liberties were taken. In the display, Hermann the German is located furthest west at the highest elevation point, with John Lind House a little ways down from it. Eagles Roller Mill is at the exact opposite end from Hermann.

Pat Roiger admitted it was not to scale. If it were to scale, Hermann would tower over everything. He said his mother built the models based on what she had available. He is fairly certain his mother created the dome on Hermann Monument using a recycled bowl. Everything else was created with cardboard, balsa wood, styrofoam and metal scraps.

Since Pearl Roiger did everything by hand, she was only able to make about two models a year. Pat remembers that his mom would usually go to the location she recreated and photograph it from every angle. That was how she was able to get all the little details just right.

In the 30 years since the models were first constructed, some of the real-life locations have had exterior work done. This means the models are no longer perfect modern replicas, but most New Ullm residents should recognize the buildings.

One of Pearl Roiger’s first models was of New Ulm’s former Post Office. In the decades since she built it, the post office was converted into the Brown County Museum where the model is currently on display. Roiger’s model still reflects the building’s look from its post office days.

The Hermann the German model is located at the top of the display. Pat Roiger believes his mother constructed the monument using a recycled bowl for the dome.

Pat said the most recent model created by his mother is The Wanda Gag House. The Gag House has not changed since the model was built.

Pat Roiger said the feedback his family has received on the model is positive. People are extremely impressed with his mother’s work. Pat Roiger is confident the New Ulm village will be on display at the museum again.

The Roiger and Menzel villages will be on display at BCHS through December. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Pat Roiger shows off the miniature New Ulm village created by his mother. In the past the village was displayed in the Roiger household. This is the first time all 10 models were on public display.

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