Take a closer look at the Conner family’s spectacular Christmas house decorations, and you’ll notice that the seven-foot toy soldiers and gingerbread men are homemade.
Take an even closer look, and you’ll discover that the big lollipops dotting the light-strewn lawn are actually pool noodles that Steve Conner rolled up, backlit and supported with PVC pipes that look like barber poles.
Look some more, and it becomes clear that PVC piping supports a drive-through tunnel of lights, and that mini-Christmas trees dotting the lawn are inverted wire tomato growers.
“I basically made everything,” says Steve, whose 1842 Dogwood Drive house was a finalist in this year’s Christmas house decorating contest as well as in 2018.
Sure, the intent was to win—and Steve says one day he will—but he’s more than content to have provided some Christmas joy for passers-by as well as his family.
“It was interaction for my kids—my son Easton, 7, and my daughter Emersyn, 5—as well,” Steve says. “It was fun to do—all 100 hours of planning and execution—and if you can bring holiday cheer to people, that’s what it’s all about. Over Christmas, people are more kind to each other.”
Relying on self-taught skills, the Notre Dame alumnus and former Army paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division first entered the contest three years ago. His basic centerpieces were a North Pole sign and the toy soldiers, all made from plywood.
He used a round bucket base as a template for the soldiers’ heads, for example, and a pencil and string with a nail to create a perfect circle for the head and body of a snowman.
Other touches included driving round re-bar stakes into the ground to support PVC piping, winding strips of red duct tape around piping to resemble barber poles and placing a small mailbox for “Letters to Santa” in the mix.
One boy down the road responded by writing he’d like a blue kickball, and Steve says he’ll be taking one over to give to the boy before Christmas.
Another letter—Steve is very suspicious that it came from a close neighbor—asks “Santa Baby” for 2 gallons of Fireball whiskey and full tax exemption from the Feds for 2020.
As for the cost of the entire project, Steve laughs and says, “Don’t tell my wife Adrian.”
“I think my display is unlike any other on the island,” says Steve, who’s unfazed about not actually winning this year’s contest.
But he does have a few ideas for next year.
“I’ll be doing a bit of welding,” he says. “I have a five-year project planned. Maybe I’ll win one year. But it’s still for my own amusement, and my kids get a kick out of it. It’s not for bragging rights.”