Over 250,000 lights. Three hundred plastic blow molds. Twelve fully decorated artificial Christmas trees. More than 100 inflatable holiday decorations ranging in size from 2 feet to 15 feet.
And a whole lot of Christmas spirit.
That’s what it takes for Kurt Farmer to transform his Alexandria home into Farmer’s Christmas House. It’s one of NoVA’s most anticipated holiday displays, and it has kept people returning year after year for decades.
Farmer begins his preparations at the end of summer, fitting in time where he can between his job and other obligations.
“It takes about 400 hours to complete,” he says, adding that he sometimes spends as long as 14 to 16 hours a day on it.
But all of that work instantly becomes worth it when he sees it all comes together in December.
Each visitor seems to have something different that they enjoy seeing in the display, Farmer says.
For the older crowd, it may be the Three Stooges plastic blow mold.
“They tend to point that one out to the kids, who of course have no idea who that is,” Farmer says. “As for the kids, they usually like the silly Mickey Mouse and Olaf inflatables — often running up to give them a hug or take a photo.”
It’s being able to provide that magical Christmas feeling that Farmer loves the most.
“Older people tend to enjoy visiting because it makes them feel like a kid again,” he says. “The moms and dads get to remember what it’s like and how fun Christmas used to be. It’s like walking under a tunnel and entering a winter wonderland where they can forget for a while. That’s what I try to provide for people.”
Growing up in the ‘Christmas house’
Farmer grew up in the “Christmas house.”
“My old man began doing this when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and for me, this was our normal,” he says.
It started out with just a lot of lights. More lights than any of the neighboring houses.
Farmer recalls one year when his dad had decided to make all of the lights red for Christmas.
“People kept thinking the house was on fire and calling the fire department,” he says with a laugh.
As the years went on, Farmer says his family was the first on the street to get the blow up and wire mesh decorations for their home, when they started coming out.
“My dad would just continue to add new stuff year in and year out,” he says.
And that tradition has carried on with Kurt, who grew his own collection for a number of years before moving back into his childhood home 10 years ago.
“My own collection grew quite rapidly to match up with that of my old man’s,” he says. “When I moved back in and combined my stuff with his, it really upped the game and made it into the Christmas bonanza that it is today.”
Visitors come from near and far
Farmer says he enjoys being able to provide an annual tradition for many local — and even far away — visitors.
“I really just caught the bug early on and feel happy to be able to continue on with it and let generations of kids and adults come back and enjoy it on a yearly basis,” he says.
And the word has certainly gotten out about Farmer’s Christmas House.
“We get about eight to 10 thousand visitors that come to see the house each year,” Farmer says.
Debbie Marschke of Alexandria is one of those people.
“I moved to Virginia several years ago and someone at my church told me about Farmer’s Christmas House,” she says. “I went with some friends to see it and I was just blown away with this little gem that is tucked right off of Richmond Highway.”
Marschke says she and her children have been visiting the Christmas display for the past five years.
“When my kids come home for Christmas, we always make sure we go to Farmer’s to see the lights, enjoying the new additions and old favorites,” she says.
While the spirit, nostalgia, and several of the decorations at Farmer’s Christmas House remain the same each year, Farmer says he has had to make some changes.
“We have lost trees in different places, so I’ve had to account for that in different ways and I do try to rotate stuff around to make it fresh and new,” he explains. “But we definitely have some staples that stay the same each year.”
For instance, the plastic blow mold of Santa with his reindeer flying onto the roof.
“My dad started that decades ago when I was a kid and that’s one of the things that never changes,” he says. “It’s not Christmas unless that’s up there.”
Farmer’s Christmas House, located at 2507 Fairview Dr. in Alexandria, had over 1,000 people come by on opening night, December 11.
As of now, and dependent upon weather, Farmer’s Christmas House is set to be open for visitors December 16 through New Year’s Eve, which is typically the last day of the display.
Be sure to check the Facebook page for updates about any closures.
“I truly have the greatest neighbors in the world as well as the most understanding wife and daughter,” Farmer adds. “I couldn’t do this without them.”
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