From November through December, many neighborhood streets are a holiday fairyland, aglow with twinkling lights. But a drive down one street in particular has become as much of a tradition as eggnog and mistletoe.
There’s hardly a house that doesn’t decorate for the holidays on Fawnlake. In fact, resident Daniel Hutchison, a Stratford sophomore who’s lived there as far back as his memory allows, grew up thinking ever street did the same. “When I was old enough to venture from my street more, it was a disappointment to find that not all streets were decorated quite like ours,” he said.
You can find Fawnlake with ease if you drive down Boheme. There at the corner, acting as a sentinel, you’ll find a 35-foot snowman lit by close to 800 lights. He has no support structures and how he stands erect has intrigued thousands of carloads that creep by year after year.
His creator, Rob Marett, who has lived in the corner house with wife Sue and their four children for 10 years, got the idea from an elderly gentleman in Hedwig Village some 14 years ago. Rob stopped to admire the handiwork of a structure made from 1/2-inch thick PVC piping, and decided to build one. “It took me one week to put it up the first time I tried it,” Rob said. “Now it takes me about three days.”
For many years, while most of the kids on the block were younger, news spread down the street there’d be a snowman lighting party the evening Rob got the snowman up. “We’d have over 50 kids and 50 adults assembled on the lawn. The kids would countdown from 20 to zero and then I’d plug it in. We’d blast Frosty the Snowman and serve cookies, punch, and hot chocolate,” Rob said.
Not to be outdone, next-door neighbors Randy and Ann Marie Sullivan and Laura and Lee Ball decided they wanted a piece of the action. They rested a ladder over their driveways connecting their two roofs and built an enormous singing Santa, sleigh, and reindeer that stretches across the two homes. “Lee and I hope to pass on the task of putting this up to the next generation once we get too old to be doing this,” said Randy, who adds that sons Ben, 9, and Clay, 7, take notes while they spend the entire day assembling it.
“I told them they were making a big mistake,” Rob said of the advice he gave his neighborly competitors. “One you start, you can’t stop. One year, I was late in putting up the snowman. There was a knock at the door and there was a boy, maybe aged 6, standing there with his hands on his hip demanding when I was going to put up the snowman.” The boy’s parents apologized and admitted they’d been by three times already to see it. “I look forward to the day I can just put a string of lights up over the door,” he said.
The Balls and Sullivans get plenty of admirers, too. Randy remembers a little girl less than 4 years old ringing his door to tell him how much she loved the Santa on the roof.
As you might imagine, neighbors on Fawnlake are good friends, and certainly know how to laugh together. One year, Rob thought he’d help Tony and Karen Gregory spruce up their holiday decorations. So, he tipped over their metal deer, wrapped a stick in lights to look like a spear, and spread red lights over their grass. The next year, the Gregorys added their own humorous touch to their yard. “We put up a deer feeder and a sign that read ‘No hunting,’ ” Karen said, who also remembers when Randy and Lee ran an extension cord and plugged it into Rob’s outlet so that he was paying for their lights.
All jokes aside, some pretty serious traditions have been created on this street. Scott Marett was just 8 when his dad first began building the snowman. “People would say to me, ‘Oh, you live in the snowman house.’ But it was a lot of fun having the neighborhood for the snowman lighting,” said Scott, now a senior at the University of Colorado. “The first year, it took my dad the whole day to fiddle with the rope that held the snowman up. He finally figured out a way, and then my sister, Jennifer, who was 6, came and pulled the rope and the snowman fell down,” Scott said.
Question is, will Scott make the same “mistake” that brings a yearly expectation to build a 35-foot structure for thousands of kids to enjoy? “Absolutely,” said Scott, who added that he’ll enjoy building it (hopefully with Rob’s help) when he has a family of his own one day. If Scott’s creation is anything like his father’s, it should be worth the wait.