Striving to “bring joy and happiness” to the young and young-at-heart, Jerry and Sheila McGuirt delight in transforming their Kingston property into a holiday showpiece. Starting with a pair of inflatables more than two decades ago, the couple’s outdoor display has expanded exponentially.
“We both have a very deep passion for Christmas and what it means to us,” McGuirt said. “Our first display using inflatables [was] over 21 years ago when we put two 12-foot inflatables in our yard, one on each side of the driveway.
“Over the years, it has grown to what it is now — almost 325 inflatables, many have animation, some are one-of-a-kind or prototypes that never went into production; almost 100 blow molds; about 7,000 lights; several buildings, including a pole barn with viewing deck and storage for inflatables, a log cabin and an old, country-store-style, log building with a window in the second floor that we project Christmas movies and Santa on.”
Blanketing 4 of the McGuirts’ 10 acres, the festive inflatables range in height from 36 inches to more than 16 feet and include many traditional and contemporary iconic characters, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Olaf from “Frozen” and Charlie Brown. The display also features a variety of Santas, ranging from Kris Kringle standing beside an inflatable helicopter during a North Pole air delivery, on top of a slide, performing a hula dance and in his sled, steering a team of Siberian huskies. Providing an ever-changing look to their display, McGuirt said they use LED lighting, which gives them the ability to alter the color and design of most of their lights.
“Our favorite time of day is around sunset, when after weeks of hard work, dusk sets in, the timers start to turn on lights and [our] yard seems to come to life,” McGuirt said. “It makes all the hard work worth it when we sit on the porch or deck and listen to families enjoying Christmas in our front yard.”
With so many unique treasures, the couple finds it difficult to pinpoint their preferred outdoor decoration.
“I hope that our display will put people in the Christmas spirit and let them know what Christmas is all about,” she said. “I have many favorites, but my favorite is an antique blow mold nativity that was given to us by a special friend.
“I also like the inflatable Santa on a motorcycle with a giant teddy bear on the back. The Santa scene is another favorite with Santa and Mrs. Claus, an elf, tree, carousels and Ferris wheel. And another favorite is Santa sleeping in his bed and snoring.”
Noting blow molds are “hard to describe,” McGuirt provided some information about this collectible type of yard décor.
“They are made by injecting plastic into a hollow mold,” he said. “They are made in many styles and forms, and were first made on a large scale in the 1940s. A quick search of blow mold history will reveal a lot. They are very collectible.
“They range from small table top models to larger ones up to life-size. We have a variety — several nativities, Santa, snowmen, elves and many more, ranging from about 18 inches to 6 feet.”
Situated at 1210 Kingston Highway, the McGuirts’ winter wonderland is on display this month daily from 4 to 10 p.m., if weather permits. Along with encouraging people to drive-by with “caution and courtesy,” the couple will present their annual complimentary Open House event Dec. 14 and 15 from 4 to 8 p.m. A live Santa will make an appearance Saturday evening from 5 to 8.
In addition to enjoying the outdoor decorations, the offering will consist of refreshments, such as roasted marshmallows. Advising visitors to “dress warm and bring a flashlight and camera,” McGuirt emphasized the need for people to be “aware that there are numerous trip hazards, including electric cords, ropes, etc.”
While there is no charge to attend the Open House, donations will be accepted and a portion of the funds will be presented to a local charity. In past years, the McGuirts donated the funds to Toys for Tots and to assist families in need.
As with her favorite inflatables, Mrs. McGuirt also has several memories that stand out, regarding their festive, lighted yard décor.
She shared some of her most memorable moments include when “a child walks up to you and presents you with a handmade ‘Best Christmas Display of the Year’ award; the chief of chaplains of the U.S. Army stops by to take pictures of our ‘Mega Red, White and Blue’ tree — and Santa [is in] military uniform — to share with our servicemen and women, and gives us a chaplain’s coin; a lady shares how for years she would bring her mother, who has cancer, to sit in our driveway and enjoy the display; [and] having special needs groups, churches, car clubs and others come by to visit with us and see our display.”
Generally inflating the Christmas figures by Dec. 1, the McGuirts also celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving with inflatables. They start decorating for Halloween in September with more than 75 inflatables, and for Christmas by Oct. 1.
“Yes, it is very hard work — some 12-hour days, but it is very rewarding,” Mrs. McGuirt said. “Setting up the nativities reminds me about the real meaning of Christmas.
“If we can just touch one life, one family, along with our friends, neighbors, community and whoever passes by our place, and let them know we care and bring joy and happiness to them, then we have done what we set out to do. I really enjoy the music playing and seeing all the Christmas colors and just setting the stage for Christmas.”