ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA - You cannot miss the annual over-the-top Christmas lights and decorations at the Farmer house on a quiet street in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington. They are everywhere — in the yard, on the house, and even covering the roof. Visitors are greeted by arches over the driveway strung with thousands of colorful tiny lights.
“It’s magical and overwhelming at the same time,” said Ela Macander, who came for the first time. “You don’t know where to look, there’s so much going on.”
And that’s the whole idea, explained Kurt Farmer, who spent 300 hours putting up the spectacular displays of hundreds of plastic and inflatable carolers, snowmen, toy soldiers and much more. And a large collection of Santas, including Santa with his reindeer, which was hung from a tree.
“The flying Santa, that takes me right back to my childhood,” Farmer said. “It’s in the exact same place it has been for 40 years.”
Father's production, family tradition
When he was 10, Farmer began helping his father put up the decorations that started small and over the years grew into a big production that included dancing toys, a nativity scene, Disney characters and “Star Wars” heroes.
After Farmer’s mother died, his father moved out of the house. Then Kurt Farmer moved into the family home and carried on his father’s tradition. He wanted to continue what his father started: “making people happy and kind of forget about the real world for a little while.”
Now, his 9-year-old daughter Lilly lends him a hand.
“I just like helping him and doing some of the work,” she said.
Visitor Jenny Kaur has been coming to the house for the past few years to see what is new.
“It’s great that people keep the traditions going,” she said. “So much joy, and it’s just lovely. It’s like you’re transported into a different Christmas world.”
A list for Santa
That world includes a big snowman with a snow globe on the bottom with gently falling snow, and an inflatable Santa waving from his helicopter with spinning blades.
Farmer asks for the same Christmas present every year — more decorations.
“I make a list for Santa,” he said, smiling. “Santa’s been very good to me. We leave the lights on so he never misses the house.”
Three years ago, Farmer fell while putting decorations on top of the house, shattering his pelvis. He spent months learning how to walk again. But despite his injuries, he was back on the roof the following year determined to set up his cherished display.
Farmer often feels his mother’s spirit with him.
“Her hand is on my shoulder telling me, ‘This looks pretty neat,’” he said.
Thousands to visit
More than 3,000 people are expected to visit the house during the three weeks it is decorated for the holidays. Some visitors find out about the house from the internet, like Laura Broughton from Washington, who was enjoying the worn vintage figures that “look like they have been around a long time.”
Ann Small’s two young sons were enjoying the Mickey Mouse cartoon characters.
“I think it’s spectacular that someone would take the time to put this much effort into it for the kids,” she said.
Farmer likes watching the children get excited. But he said he enjoys seeing the reaction from the adults even more.
“The adults can walk through and see something somewhere that reminds them of when they were growing up. It’s important to make people happy and take them back to their childhood,” he said.
Farmer hopes visitors will leave feeling “like they just got a nice, warm hug.”