From colorful light displays to inflatable lawn ornaments, Whidbey Island has had no shortage of holiday cheer in 2022. This weekend might provide the last chance for people to see the festive decorations before they’re tucked away until next year.
In the Scatchet Head neighborhood in Clinton, Jim Young has been making kids and grown-ups alike smile with his collection of blow-up penguins, snowmen and Santa Clauses. His house has become something of a landmark in the South Whidbey neighborhood as “that place with the inflatables,” which helps people who may have lost their bearings.
“I inspire my neighbors to put something else out,” he said.
It all started 20 years ago, when he set the lit-up lawn ornaments out as a way to entertain his grandchildren, who were riding to and from school on the bus.
The grandkids still love them, two decades later, as do many passersby.
“I have people stop and thank me all the time,” Young said. “I’ve had people walk right in the yard and hand me cookies because they just love the inflatables.”
Some of the decorations he set out this holiday season include Santa on a motorcycle, a penguin with a colorful belly and a snow globe full of snowmen.
Nor is Christmas the only holiday Young decorates for. His inflatables also pop up around Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving.
At the corner of Hastie Lake Road and West Beach Road in Oak Harbor, the extravagant light display that has become an annual fixture in the neighborhood had some exciting new features this year.
The set-up, which spans both sides of the street, is impossible to miss. Using custom-made frames that property-owners Debra and John Sims order from Indiana, this year’s display features Christmas classics such as Santa Claus, reindeer and assorted woodland creatures alongside less conventional characters like dinosaurs, a sea monster and a pod of orcas.
Debra Sims said in the 12 years since they moved into the Hastie Lake house, the couple has designed their light display as a drive-by experience. Because they frequently saw people get out of their cars and walk along the road to appreciate the lights, however, they added a walk-in area set back from the street this year.
“It’s actually turned out very cool,” she said, adding that they intend to expand the walk-in area next holiday season.
She said it takes her, her husband and their daughter and son-in-law, Lauren and Josh Sinclair, about 10 days to set it all up. The display gets a little bigger every year. Though Sims said every year she tells herself she has enough pieces, she always ends up ordering more around February.
“It’s an addiction,” she joked.
Her daughter, Lauren Sinclair, added another new element to this year’s display. For the first time, they left out a box to collect letters to Santa, and Lauren replied to almost every letter with a “nice list” certificate and a personalized letter from Santa to the child.
Sinclair said she wrote back to 82 children in total — the only ones she couldn’t reply to were the handful who didn’t leave return addresses.
Receiving letters from and responding to the children, as well as seeing their faces light up when they see the light display, brings back a part of the Christmas spirit that is sometimes lost in adulthood.
“It kind of keeps that part of Christmas alive, even when you’re not experiencing it yourself,” she said.
They cut off the letters to Santa last weekend to ensure they would have time to reply to each child before Christmas, but Sinclair said she plans to do it again next year.
On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus and the Grinch will both be in attendance at the light display, and the Sims will have goody bags for visiting children, Sims said.
Sims and Sinclair said they’ve had community members thank them and even ask whether they can donate to the display or electricity costs, but the mother and daughter said the cost is no issue and encouraged people to donate that money to a local charity, instead.