Of Goblins, Gourds and Gazillions of Lights
It’s now the season to light up, inflate and otherwise electrify our yards, and I’m going big this year
By Mike Savicki
I could not be more excited to write this column, for with the changing of the seasons comes the opportunity I have been eagerly anticipating all year. As another failed summer of deadheading, fertilizing, watering and otherwise attempting to maintain the vibrancy of annual color in our gardens comes to a close, my energy turns to decorating the yard – my way, sans living things – for the next few months. And by decorating, I’m talking about erecting dozens of inflatable grim reapers at Halloween, constructing piles and piles of gourds and pumpkins strategically arranged atop hay bales at Thanksgiving, then stringing together enough colored lights, ornaments, candy canes and glowing reindeer to obliterate the fuse box at Christmas.
Let’s start with Halloween. Here’s a secret, if you have never plugged in an inflatable scary thing and watched it rise from the earth and come to life – eeerr death – or covered your bushes in white, tacky fake spider webs, or dangled a fake-but-not-so-fake-looking black spider from limbs and branches above the front entryway, then you are missing out on a really good thing.
To learn about the finer points of decorating in black and orange, not to forget death and decapitation, I reached out to a local expert. For the last six years, Cornelius resident Adam Pearson and his family’s Oakhurst house have become synonymous with electrified autumnal holiday flair, beginning, most ghoulishly, with Halloween.
“We do it all, we just can’t help it,” Adam Pearson tells me, “and if we can find something to light up or inflate at our house, no matter the season or holiday, we do it. We try to cover the bare spots so that no inch of grass or spot on the house doesn’t have something on it, and in the fall, beginning with Halloween and ending with Christmas, we are in our element.”
In early to mid-October it takes Adam, 42, along with wife, Mandy, and children Lindsay, Brett, Bryce and Brooks, a few hours to chain gang down from the attic (a space specially constructed and exclusively reserved for decoration storage) all their seasonally arranged bins and boxes. It then takes several more days to get things in place.
“It’s totally worth it and I try to let the kids take the lead as much as I can,” he says. “But I’m always right behind them fixing things. You can’t put wire to wire or string to string a certain way, so it’s important to stay close.”
On an unrelated note, Pearson told me he has had to have an electrician out to the house twice to pump up the juice to the circuit boxes.
He explains, “Our goal is to eventually have the electrician come out again. After the second visit, he guaranteed we will never need any more power, so we want to show him we do.”
As for Thanksgiving, I honestly have no idea how or where to find a gourd, but I imagine if they were good enough for the pilgrims then they should be good enough for my yard. So I’m going to get my hands on a dozen or so hay bales, cover them with seasonally changed and fallen orange, red and yellow leaves, toss on baskets of pumpkins, then add as many of those shellacked decorative vegetables to the display as humanly possible. I’ll build it at the end of my driveway, and if you’re in the mood to eat Thanksgiving Day, I’d love to incorporate you as the human element to my autumn masterpiece – just give me a call. My yard will be easy to find since I’ll likely be the only guy doing it; I have been told most people skip Thanksgiving and go right from Halloween to Christmas decorating.
To learn about how to decorate for Christmas, I checked in with Mooresville’s Edwin Saint Sain for suggestions. His house, located ironically enough on a street called Beaten Path, has for the last twenty plus years served as the neighborhood’s official holiday house. It’s nicknamed “The Gingerbread House” for its traditional use and masterful placement of lighting.
“I’m basically a Christmas nut,” Ed shares. “It’s a carry-over from my childhood when Christmas was a big deal, so I’ll do as much as I can indoors and out to create a scene that looks like it is straight out of the 1950’s or 1960’s.”
Unlike the Pearsons, the Saint Sains are, out of respect for tradition, but being mutually respectful of change, anti-inflatables. I’m guessing it’s kind of like a designated hitter rule for holiday decorating.
And for the Saint Sains, as well as their neighbors, the season always begins with their annual “Lighting of the Lights Party.” Think Clark Griswold meets Punxsutawney Phil and you’ll be on the right page.
So ‘tis the season for step ladders, electrical extension cords, light strings and air pumps. Put pride and neighborly respect aside and, like I plan to do, plug in as much as you can to go big in the yard. I’m hoping to make my yard easily recognizable to passengers peering out the windows of commercial flights on approach to Charlotte-Douglas International.
Oh, one more thing. If you are looking for a place to shoot your annual holiday family picture, take a number and line up alongside the Pearson’s front porch.
“You’d be amazed how many times we open the door to go walk the dogs and find a family sitting on our porch taking pictures,” Adam says. “We have basically learned to live with flash bulbs until we take everything down.”
This article was originally published in Currents Magazine in 2016.