For the nineteenth year in a row, the Brueggemans' house at 657 Longmere Drive in Kent glows with holiday lights that flash to the beat of Christmas music while almost fifty blow-up decorations including a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, Spongebob SquarePants and Hello Kitty fill the lawn.
"It started with a nativity set," Earl Brueggeman said. "It grows every year. I can expand a little bit, but not much."
Brueggeman said when he was a kid, his parents would take him to downtown Akron to see the Christmas displays. When the city stopped putting up holiday decorations, Brueggeman decided to start a new tradition to give families the same holiday cheer he experienced when he was young.
"There's plenty of people that say they've been coming by our house for years and have watched it grow," he said.
For the Brueggemans, the holiday spirit starts at Halloween when they spend about four weeks hanging the lights and filling their yard with every Christmas decoration they could get their hands on. The display is lit up every night after Thanksgiving from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The week before Christmas, the decorations light up the yard until midnight. Brueggeman also dresses up as Santa Claus from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. every night to greet visitors and hand out candy canes, which are donated by Klaben Ford. Brueggeman said he's handed out 52 dozen candy canes so far.
Last year, Brueggeman and his wife, Myrna, set up a mailbox where children could drop off letters to Santa. The couple read all 185 letters they received and sent responses to each child. This year the Brueggeman's have already received 190 letters.
"Some of the letters are really touching," Brueggeman said. "Last year a little girl wrote a letter and said her mom was diagnosed with cancer. She asked her mother to be cancer-free for Christmas."
The children aren't the only ones who enjoy driving by the Brueggeman's wonderland every year. Three nursing homes in the area bring a bus load of senior citizens out at least once a week to see the decorations. Brueggeman said Stonebridge Crossing brings its resident out three times a week to visit Santa and get a candy cane.
"I enjoy doing it for the kids," Brueggeman said. "It puts a lot of smiles on people's faces. The seniors love it just as much as the kids do."
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