There’s no place like home for the holidays. When the days grow short and nights come early, creating a personal winter wonderland becomes priority.
Some folks let their inner Clark Griswold run free. Outdoor decor can run the gamut from a single strand of bright white icicle lights to handcrafted ornamentation, or even a yard filled with eye-catching animatronics. Others focus on sprucing up the inside of their homes.
Whether indoors or out, the joy of decorating for the holidays can do wonders to counteract winter doldrums.
And thus, it is with the spirit of the enchantment of Christmas that these Fort Collins residents highlight the cheeriness of holiday decor.
“I wanted to start a collection from the very beginning and collect all the pieces,” says Julie Piepho. “I like Santa Claus and so, in 1990, I began building the North Pole Village.”
Julie has dedicated an entire room to her collection, and she leaves it in place year-round. She often welcomes charity groups to her home to see her display, which she finished five years ago. Her goal is to increase the number of organizations she hosts to view the merry diversion.
Situated on a snowy white surface, the jolly scene fairly pops with vivid hues. One side is dominated by Mickey Mouse, and then the scene transitions to the North Pole Village. A red-brick chimney is constructed along one wall aside the village, with Santa’s feet sticking out, as if he’s entering head-first into a child’s wonderland rather than a family fireplace. Each detail is painstakingly placed to perfection, from candy cane fences to a ski slope in the background.
Piepho advises anyone wishing to begin a similar undertaking to ease into it gently. There are dozens of distinct types of villages, so the trick is to give some thought in which direction to start.
“Pick out one or two pieces, then find a nice spot to display the vignette,” she says. “There are many different ways to do this, such as on a table or a shelf, or even layered down a ladder. Enjoy it. Show it off. Then add a house each year, and trees and people.”
Tours de Christmas
Not only does Jackie Kramer and her two sons decorate the exterior of their own home with flair, but they have turned the activity of touring light displays within the city of Fort Collins into a business.
Kramer has owned and operated TLC Limos, a family affair, for 15 years. The impetus for the company was to show off area homes available for exhibit during the Christmas season.
Before that, however, one of Kramer’s sons joined the house-decorating bandwagon when he was barely into his teens.
“It all began with my son Brandyn,” says Jackie. “When he was 13 years old, he started with a plan and a vision, then nicely decorated the exterior of our home. He’s very detailed and creative, and adds to it every year. Since then, our home has become part of the holiday tour, too.”
“There’s a lot of patience involved,” says Jackie. “He begins by unpacking all the lights, straightens the strands and tests them to make sure they’re all working. He checks to ensure all the molded plastic ornaments are intact and the electric box is in order. The right equipment and safety gear, such as a good ladder and headlamp, are important. He makes sure the roof isn’t icy or slippery and that electrical cords aren’t blocking anything. But, mainly it’s just really fun. His excitement comes from seeing the smiles on people’s faces.”
To find out more about the limo tours, go to www.tlclimos.co.
Kirk and Lori Patterson began creating handcrafted wooden displays for their yard at 2901 Middlesborough Court in the early 1990s.
“It’s all handmade,” says Lori Patterson, of the craft she and a friend started playing around with decades ago. Since then, setting up has always been a family affair, with friends included.
“There’s Santa and a sleigh, with three life-size reindeer,” says Kirk. “Elves help Santa on the roof. More elves are dressed in local sport’s team gear—Broncos, Avalanche and Rockies. At night a big floodlight shines, but there doesn’t have to be a light. During the day they look just as good.”
“We have gingerbread houses, candy canes and lollipops, with the hope to add a train this year. But we take care to make sure it all fits well in our yard,” adds Lori.
Being part of a close-knit community, the neighbors have shown appreciation for the annual wooden adornments bedecking the Patterson’s home.
“That is Christmas,” continues Lori, “the people that come by and everyone who gathers together.”
Doug and Jane Anderson thoroughly enjoy their extravagant outdoor holiday display. Every year for the past decade they have delighted area residents with their home in Eagle Ranch Estates. All who care to drive by 3661 Eagle Lane from Thanksgiving to New Year’s in order to ogle the lively exhibition are welcome.
“The tradition started when I was a child, about seven or eight years old,” says Doug. “We always had outdoor decorations, although they were very basic back then.”
Doug, now retired, derives pleasure from sharing his enthusiasm with his own grandchildren as well as any others who are young, or just young at heart.
“What separates us from others is the animation,” continues Doug. “I love animation and LED.”
Their property is split up into a series of themes, which can be viewed from different angles.
Merry Christmas is lit up at the front of the house, very specifically stated to keep Christ in Christmas. In this same vein, on the corner, the creche can be seen from any direction. This is a significant aspect for the Andersons.
“It’s important for us to remember what Christmas is all about, such as Christ’s birthday and giving,” says Anderson of the manger scene surrounded by wise men while the Star of David hangs directly above in a tree.
On a frivolous note, Santa capers across the roof. The effect is created by using four animated Kris Kringles, lit up one at a time as he moves from the sleigh to the chimney.
There are elves playing on presents in the yard, then scampering up the side of the house. Doug is fond of trains, and so “we definitely have a train. The wheels appear to really be moving.”
All of this takes a crew of six to eight men a day or two to install. Many elements need to be anchored and tethered, plus guide wires added to alleviate the possibility of damage should a strong wind arise.
The Andersons take into consideration the extensiveness of the project as well as expense involved, but their motivation remains to be one of bringing joy.
“It’s about the kids and the people who drive by,” says Doug. “There’s just such a happiness about it.”
Writer Lynette Chilcoat owns Chilcoat Custom Literary based in Loveland.
Decking the Halls in NOCO
By Lynette Chilcoat
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