Like most families with extensive (large, over the top, pick your favorite adjective) Christmas displays, we started very small and gradually grew over many years. In 1991, while living in a different house in Geneva, we built a storage shed that resembled a small cottage – it had a front window with a flower box, a cross-buck front door and pointed roof. That Christmas, we purchased a blowmold Santa Claus and placed him inside the shed in front of the window, outlined the shed with large multi-colored lights and made a sign that said “Santa’s Workshop”. Every year we added a few more lights, some candy canes, a few blowmold elves and other decorations. While not a large display, it became the foundation of how we decorate today. In 1996, we moved to our present home on Cheever Avenue. The new house did not have a storage shed like our old home and we didn’t have the need to build one. Ethan, our youngest son, had just turned 4 years old and was very concerned that we wouldn’t have a Santa’s Workshop at our new home for Christmas. Not wanting to disappoint him in that first Christmas in our new home, we built a free standing Santa’s Workshop and placed it in our side yard. Every year, we again followed our earlier tradition and added more lights and other decorations. While sometimes It’s hard to imagine that once 4 year old Ethan is now 24 years old and it is comforting to know Santa’s Workshop is still a central part of our display.
In 1999, we began to focus on more of a North Pole theme. That year, Janice and the boys went to our local Menard’s and literally bought every penguin and polar bear they could find – filling up multiple shopping carts and filling up our van. This was probably the first time that we started to realize our display was a bit unique. We then added other structures like the Polar Bear Cafe and Santa’s Skate Park (using a skateboarding half-pipe we had built for the boys) along with inflatable polar bears and snowmen.
Starting in 2002, we added computerized control to the display. We control all aspects of the display from multiple computers including the synchronization of the lights to music being broadcast on a low power FM transmitter. We also have streaming video cameras in order for people all across the world to see (and listen to) the display over the Internet. One of the most popular features of the display is our Virtual Santa that appears in one of our windows every night. There are many children in the area that truly believe Santa is standing in our window every night.
In 2004, we became an official drop off location for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots . Since that time, over 5,000 toys have been donated for local children. We greatly appreciate the generosity of our visitors and are amazed at what we receive every year.
Do you still believe? In the spirit of the ‘Polar Express’, in 2007 we started giving out free ‘I Believe Bells’ to any visitor. There is only one requirement to get a bell – you must believe! Based on the amount of bells taken ever year, I’m proud to say there are thousands of believers in the Geneva area.
Every year we receive many emails and letters with very nice comments and compliments about the display. The best ones are those from parents or grandparents telling us how our display has become part of their family holiday tradition and how much they look forward to coming back again and again. We hope their children and grandchildren grow up to bring their families year after year.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Parcell Family!
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