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Holiday house: Oak Harbor couple shares holiday joy by sprucing up their yard with elaborate displays for all seasons
For three months out of the year, Patti and Harry Keller don’t worry about the electric bill.
They shrug it off as a temporary inconvenience essential to enjoying their favorite pastime.
“Oh, it shoots up the last three months of the year,” Patti said of their bill. “We really don’t want to figure it out. It’s not the point.”
The point is, joy radiates from the Keller’s front yard during the holidays.
Joy in the form of thousands of lights and hundreds of inflatable, plastic and wooden characters.
Every major holiday, the Kellers transform their Oak Harbor home into a holiday house.
Christmas tops them all, taking weeks to set up.
“We do every holiday except Labor Day,” Patti said. “We don’t do Labor Day because we can’t figure out what to do.”
The Kellers have decked out their yard ever since moving into their home at the corner of Erie Street and Sixth Avenue five years ago, but it’s been a tradition of Patti’s for decades, even before she and Harry got married 15 years ago.
“I’ve decorated everywhere I’ve lived,” she said.
The marriage of Patti and Harry was a match made in holiday decor heaven.
They met while working together at the Navy Exchange. Harry, who retired from the Navy, worked as a carpenter.
Now both are fully retired, allowing for more time to brainstorm, build and set out yard ornaments.
“I do it to keep her off my ass,” Harry joked. “It keeps me out of trouble.”
Many decorations are made of plywood and painted by Patti.
“I have no artistic talent when it comes to drawing anything,” she said.
She’ll find a character or design she likes on a greeting card or magazine and project the image on the wall.
Then Harry takes over.
“He cuts the wood out. I paint it. He figures out where it will work in the yard. It’s a real joint effort,” she said.
What started with lights and wood cutouts grew to adding life-sized glow-molded figures and ultimately air-blown inflatable characters and devices.
To celebrate Halloween, air-blown props included a coffin lid that would open, revealing a vampire’s head popping out.
“We leave the air-blown up 24/7,” Patti said. “It does suck up the power.”
The displays draw attention and visitors. Patti said she gave away about 1,000 pieces of candy and 500 glow sticks on Halloween night.
Families drop by around Easter, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas.
“It’s really a great way to meet neighbors,” Patti said. “They stop by and say ‘thanks.’”
One woman, who’s husband is active duty military, stopped by and warmed Patti’s heart.
“She told me, she and her husband and child come by every holiday three or four times to look at it. It’s a tradition,” Patti said.
She said the husband requested that his wife email him photographs of Keller’s house while he was away one Christmas so he could feel like he was home.
“That made me feel good,” Patti said.
The Kellers started setting up their yard this week with Christmas decorations. It will take weeks until it’s complete.
The Kellers have hundreds of air-blown characters, rotating different ones so it doesn’t look the same every year.
“This is my first year doing this since being retired,” Harry said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take this go around.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I usually finish up Christmas Eve.”
The lights, decorations and figures are stored all over the Kellers’ home, tucked away in sheds, closets, even under beds.
But they still manage to park two cars in their garage.
Both in their late 60s, the Kellers aren’t sure how long they’ll continue this tradition but will keep going as long as they are able.
“It’s a feel-good thing,” Patti said. “We both enjoy it. We both love watching kids. We both love making them happy.”
Maybe one day the Kellers will graduate to synchronized flashing lights and music made famous in the 2006 movie, “Deck the Halls,” featuring Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick?
“We were already there,” Patti said with a smile “Three or four years ago, we did that.”