By Melanie Williamson
For many people, Halloween is their favorite holiday. Whether it is the dressing up, the decorating or the trick-or-treating, Halloween takes on a special role for many people. Many Vermilion residents take the time to carve pumpkins and decorate their yards in the days leading up to Halloween. They may even dress up in a costume themselves to greet the children and pass out candy.
Some residents, however, have become known for their elaborate and scary Halloween decorations. They add to their decorations year and after year always work towards making it bigger and better. These houses are located in all the different neighborhoods and along Main Street. Even those that aren’t out trick-or-treating on Halloween have probably seen some of these homes as they’re traveling around town and can appreciate the amount of work and commitment that goes into these displays.
One example of this is Al and Pam Verhoff of Oakview Drive. The Verhoff’s have been decorating for Halloween for over 25 years. Al Verhoff described himself and his wife as “Halloween fanatics.” He went on to share that he has loved Halloween since he was a kid, and the enjoyment of decorating for him is more than just that one night. It is the time spent making decorations and updating the displays. It is also the reaction and feedback he gets from neighbors and children in the neighborhood.
Verhoff stated that almost all of the decorations in his hard are homemade including the many headstones and the coffin that make up his front yard graveyard. He doesn’t have any inflated decorations, and the only thing he has purchased is a fake fire he uses as part of the display.
He shared that people stop all the time to talk to him and his wife and to ask about the decorations, and neighborhood children always stop to get a better look. He said it takes him about two days to get everything set up, and he is fortunate to have the help of his grandson each year.
Verhoff shared that one of the best things that have happened is that he was at a graduation party looking at a scrapbook of the graduate and discovered that earlier in her high school years, she and her friends had posed for homecoming photos in his yard. He stated that lots of people stop and take pictures in his yard, but he never realized a group of high school students in full formal wear had stopped over.
Another favorite Halloween house is right around the corner on Mapleview. The Brownell family has been decorating their home for Halloween for over ten years, and each year their outdoor display gets more extensive and more detailed. Being a corner house, they have the benefit of both a front and a side yard facing the streets that they can decorate.
Rod Brownell shared that it’s more than just the decorations. Each year, the whole family dresses in costumes and they create skits that are played out for the trick-or-treaters. Several neighborhood children including Jace, Braden, and Talon Walczak along with their son, Sean Brownell help set up the decorations each year and are helping with the skits. Levi Jamison, who is now a junior at Vermilion High School lives across the street from the Brownell family and has been helping set up the Halloween decorations since he was just ten years old.
Rod shared that he buys a lot of his decorations in the off-season to get the best price, and setting up starts in September. He will have neighborhood kids stop by his house starting in early summer to ask him what he’s going to be doing this year and what new props he has for Halloween. Among the current decorations, the Brownell’s have 15 giant inflatables, a full graveyard, Holograms in the upstairs windows, and a fog machine.
They start lighting everything up at the start of October and have everything inflated and lit up by 7 p.m. each night. Rod shared that they regularly have families stop by to take photos in their yard. One of their props is an old swing set that they decorate with cornstalks and scary props. Rod stated they’ve had people stop and offer to pay to take photos with their props, but he always welcomes them to take pictures in his yard.
To the neighborhood kids, Rod is the “Halloween man.” He shared that one of the best experiences he has had with this was a couple of years ago when he tore his Achilles tendon. He was stuck in a wheelchair and unable to decorate. By the first and second week of October, neighbors started stopping by to ask what was going on; why they weren’t decorating. When they shared with everyone that Rod was in a wheelchair and just couldn’t do it, several neighbors stopped over and helped the family decorate the yard.
The Verhoff’s and the Brownell’s are just two of the many families in Vermilion that go the extra mile to make holidays like Halloween extra special for the neighborhood children.