photo by: Emma Delk
WHEELING — Christmas starts early for the Viles family, which begin creating their elaborate holiday display in September to be ready to share with the Wheeling community by the start of November.
The time is well spent, as more than 15,000 lights, 20 garland-decorated poles, 15 Christmas trees, two giant nutcrackers and a life-sized Santa statue adorn their porch and lawn to create a winter wonderland for visitors who stop by the Wheeling Island home.
Moving to Wheeling from Texas two years ago, the family decided to carry on their tradition of elaborate Christmas decorating to their new home on Kentucky Street. However, the family never expected such an enthusiastic response from the Wheeling community when they first put up the display last year.
“We had people stopping by every night to get out and take photos or slowing down to take a picture while passing by,” explained Jamie. “We thought, hey, might as well make this a whole experience for them.”
Many items are store-bought or ordered months in advance. Father Shaun Viles detailed they often start hunting for discounted Christmas decor as soon as they tear down last year’s display.
“It may seem like a lot of money goes into this, but it’s time more than anything,” explained Shaun Viles. “Our light bill last year was only $21 extra, we know how to make it all work.”
Also crafting some of the wooden pieces, Jamie Viles built and painted a giant Santa chair this year that serves as a photo opportunity for visitors.
The house is open from dusk to 11 p.m. for visitors to stop by and take photos or marvel at the display. This year, the Viles stepped up the spectacle by having the Grinch and Santa Claus stop by to greet weekend visitors.
“We have a friend who plays Santa Claus at local events, and so, of course, we wanted him to do meet-and-greets with the kids,” explained Jamie Viles. “Mrs. Claus might also stop by this year since I have that costume for myself.”
While opening one’s home up for constant visitation at night may seem like a nightmare to some, the Viles have enjoyed growing closer to the Wheeling community through the display.
“We see people out there hanging the ornaments on the tree or even stop in a car, and their faces light up,” said Jamie Viles. “It just warms my heart so much.”
Last year, the number of visitors to the display capped off at around 2,500, according to Shaun Viles. This year, the couple expects at least nine to 10 cars a night when the holiday season ramps up in December.
While their children sometimes bemoan having to participate in creating the display, Jamie Viles explained that, overall, decorating their house together has made their family fall in love with the holiday even more.
“There can be so much for people to worry about during the holidays, especially when it comes to buying toys and decorating,” said Viles. “We want this to be a place where people can stop by and not worry about any of that.”
Once the decorations return to the garage after this Christmas, the Viles will begin preparing to create a Candy Cane Lane-themed immersive experience next year. Also wanting to get even more neighbors involved in decorating, Jamie Viles hopes in future years, Kentucky Street will be lit up in its entirety.
“When I see all the people stop by every year, it makes me more happy because they’re happy and they’re smiling,” said Jamie Viles. “They’re having a good time, and it makes the holidays even better.”