Polar flair

Local home comes to life with huge decorations
Alvin Ritter of Woodstock stands in the front yard of his home surrounded by his inflated decorations along Readus Road. Rich Cooley/Daily
Lights illuminate a snowman and Santa outside Alvin Ritter's home west of of Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily
Alvin Ritter calls this large inflatable Santa his "Humpty Humpty" Santa. The inflatable is one of several dozen in his yard west of Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Each winter, the house at 2416 Readus Road transforms into a scene straight from the North Pole.

About 60 inflatable Christmas decorations, including more than a dozen different Santas, fill up the yard and attract onlookers from as far away as Harrisonburg and Winchester.

The man behind the decorations, Alvin Ritter, 78, said he began collecting them after retiring from Manville in 1999.

It all started with his first decoration, an inflatable Santa Claus sitting in a green easy chair, though he never envisioned ending up with an entire Christmas community.

“This is really what got me started,” he said. “I got this and I put it up there and got candy canes and we started getting a lot of kids.

“I enjoy watching the kids, they come around and they get so excited and so I just started adding to it every year.”

And a community it is. Decorations include Santa engaged in a range of activities, from taking a bath and opening the door of his camper trailer to playing golf and jetting off in a hot air balloon. There’s Santa in a canoe, Santa as an astronaut and Santa in a swing chair with Mrs. Claus.

Many of his decorations put a humorous spin on the holidays. There’s an inflatable polar bear playing a “whack-a-penguin” arcade game. A reindeer driving a tractor can be spotted running over grandma. And a penguin sporting an orange hat and camouflage jacket stands ready for hunting season.

Wreaths hang from every window in Ritter’s home, above lit-up candy canes and peppermints that flicker to Christmas carols playing from a speaker.

There isn’t much space in his yard for more, but he’s got plenty of room to expand.

“My neighbor over here, she sent me a text saying, if you run out of room in your yard and need more room, you can come over to mine and decorate it,” he said.

For all the air pumps and electricity used to power them, Ritter said the utility bill is lower than what you might expect. He said the decorations add about $250 to his bill for the month.

Ritter said he waits until after Christmas to buy the decorations, when they’re on sale. He said he can save up to 75 percent on certain items.

He said Christmas is his favorite holiday, and enjoys spending it with his children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He said he’ll continue the annual tradition until he ever gets to the point where his health limits him.

“And it could be next year,” he said, “or it could be five years from now.”

Ritter’s house is located across from Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church where Readus Road splits from Senedo Road.

He said he usually turns on the decorations around 3:30 p.m. and turns them off at 10 p.m. He said he’ll take them down after New Year’s Day.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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