In the early 2000s, Bob Elliott bought an elaborate Christmas-themed inflatable carousel. That purchase would mark the start of an annual tradition for the Rockville resident and his family of displaying a wide array of Christmas-themed inflatables in their front and side lawn.
Each year, as people are out shopping or stuffing their face with leftovers the day after Thanksgiving, Elliott, 53, begins setting up his Christmas display in his front yard.
Elliott, who works as a real estate developer, said it took him approximately 27 hours to set up over 60 of his inflatables. The time consuming effort also mandates a little cooperation from the weather, which wasn’t the case this year as it rained both on Black Friday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Not only does the display take time, but it can add a pretty penny to the electric bill. Even though the inflatables use LED bulbs, the fans powering them still blow 24/7, weather permitting. Elliott said the inflatables can add about $500 to $1,000 to the electric bill.
Regardless of the money, it’s still something Elliott said it’s something that he loves to do.
“I think it clearly brings a lot of joy to people,” he said. “Not everybody wanted to go do something like this, but I enjoy it.”
It’s not something that only brings Elliott joy, but other members of the neighborhood as well, including neighbor Ali Luginbill.
“Every year we get so excited to see when it’s coming up and once it’s up, there’s a group chat I have with some local moms that are like ‘the display is up’ and they send pictures with their kids in front of it,” she said. “I have a ton of pictures of my daughter in front of it and she gets so excited to go to the Christmas house every year. It’s become like a weekly thing, when it’s up, that we go and visit and interact with all the displays.”
Through the years, Elliott has accumulated between 150 to 200 inflatables that he annually rotates in the holiday display.
Elliott said the trick to building a vast collection of inflatables, which includes a clap-activated Santa Clause that says about five phrases, was buying them after the jolly holiday was over. Stores put inflatables on sale for 50 to 90 percent off, Elliott said.
Although Elliott has his wife, Theresa; parents, Bob and Linda; teenage children, Trey and Jacquie, and toddler Elizabeth in the house, he said he’s usually alone for the set up.
Although Elliott started the tradition nearly two decades ago, he and Theresa have been married for a little over two years. When the couple started dating, Elliott and the inflatables were a package deal. Theresa said she was taken aback when he told her, but she kept an open mind.
“I mean, personally, they’re not my personal taste either, but I think that it’s really fun for all the neighborhood kids and ours just love it,” Theresa said.
Now, Theresa said she loves the tradition and the joy it brings.
“We’re kind of a community attraction so I think the neighbors would be really sad if we didn’t put our display up,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me that the year we had COVID, the first year in 2020, people were contacting me on the NextDoor app that knew where we lived and were like, ‘oh my gosh, are you gonna put your display up this year? I don’t know what I’ll do if it’s not there, my kids are gonna be so sad.’”
One of their neighbors, Jenny Rostami, said she couldn’t imagine the display not being a part of her neighborhood.
“It would be so sad [to not have the display],” she said. “It’s like such a nice thing to look forward to after Thanksgiving and seeing them all go up. All the commotion, all the life is nice to see.”