Christmas comes this time each year.
You don’t need a calendar, candy canes or mistletoe to know that Santa’s on his way.
You only need to take a peek down Fay Avenue.
“My father loves Christmas,” Jim Gerrasch’s daughter, Cathy Vocaire, said.
And he’s more than willing to share that love.
His and his wife Barbara’s house, at 194 Fay Avenue in Avon Lake, has resulted in friends and neighbors nicknaming Gerrasch “Mr. Griswold,” after Chevy Chase’s character, Clark Griswold, who tried to cover every inch of his house in holiday lights in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
The result? A wonderland of lights, Christmas trees and a manger scene that last weekend had Gerrasch dressing up as Santa and passing out Slinkys and candy canes to children young and old who stopped by after the Avon Lake-sponsored Christmas lights tour.
“I’ve been doing this about 25 years, Gerrasch said. “I just keep adding to it each year.”
The display includes more than 25,000 LED lights (Gerrasch said he's lost track), 17 artificial Christmas trees, many of them donated, and “sparkle balls,” created by Gerrasch out of 9 oz. plastic cups wired and hung on trees in the front yard.
A labor of love
A display of this magnitude doesn’t happen overnight. Gerrasch begins setting up the display the day after Halloween and works on it for 5-6 weeks before it’s ready to be lit. A retired skilled tradesman from Ford’s Brookpark plant, he has made a number of the decorations as well as a white wooden manger scene.
“I’ve made quite a few,” he said, adding proper paint is the trick to a scene’s longevity. Wooden cutouts are created in the summer.
“I just ordered patterns for 8-foot tall toy soldiers,” he said. “Will they be out next year? You’ll have to wait and see.”
The display comes with a price tag. It costs Gerrasch about $100 a month to light the display, but that’s a considerable amount less than when he used non-LED lights several years ago.
“It was between $200 and $300 a month,” he said. “I was drawing 19 amps before; now with the LED lights, it’s about 5 to 7 amps.”
Last stop: 194 Fay Avenue
Gerrasch said neighbors enjoy the display, which is on from 5 p.m. to 10 or 10:30 p.m. daily.
“The week of Christmas they’ll be lit until 11:30 or midnight,” he said. The display will remain lit through the week after the new year.
Neighbors aren’t the only ones enjoying the festivities. For the past four years, the city of Avon Lake has made the Gerrasch house the last stop on the city-sponsored holiday lights tour. This year, however, marked the first time tour-goers, who start at the Old Firehouse Community Center, have gotten off the bus to greet a Santa-dressed Gerrasch. On Dec. 14, two Avon Lake school buses filled with 75 tour-goers, pulled up in front of the house. Revelers, from youngsters through nonagenarians, sat on Santa’s lap on the front lawn, telling Old Saint Nick what they wanted for Christmas.
The evening includes plenty of family members, some dressed as elves.
“That includes my sisters and brothers-in law, grandsons…”Gerrasch said.
It also includes daughter Cathy and her children Nicholas, Jason and Allysa and daughter Lisa Burdick and her sons Danny and Jacob, all Avon Lake residents.
“I do it for the kids, neighbors, family and friends,” Gerrasch said.
Nothing lasts forever, and the start of the new year means the end of the display…at least until next year.
“There’s just a slight letdown when it’s done,” Gerrasch said.
Disassembling the display takes about five weeks, with every string, every decoration and every tree going into a numbered box for next year.
“Every tree has own lights, ornaments,” he said. “Every one of those trees--each branch has to be put in.” And then taken out.
So for those inclined to get a little more Christmas spirit, head over to Fay (on the south side of Electric Boulevard) before the year changes.