While others were stocking up on food and filling their gas tanks prior to superstorm Sandy blowing through the area last month, Chuck Greason was making sure the reindeer on his roof were secure.
He also checked to guarantee Santa Claus wouldn't fly away or that the elves, polar bears and candy canes didn't fall over.
After all, he has a tradition to uphold.
For more years than he cares to remember, Greason has set up hundreds of Christmas displays, turned on 50,000 Christmas lights, offered an adult-sized tree swing, music and refreshments at his 3-acre property on Kitzbuhel Road in Parkton.
All he asks in return is that people bring non-perishable food for local food banks.
"I start setting up on Labor Day and turn everything on Thanksgiving night," he said. "They'll stay up until Jan 5. Last year, we brought five truckloads of food to the food bank. When I see the smiles on little kids' faces and see the food bank shelves filled, it's worth all the hard work."
He tries to add some new elements each year, and this year's selection include a lighted dinosaur that chews on Christmas lights wrapped around its body, a zebra and a giraffe holding Christmas balls and an angel that flaps its wings.
He also has a huge polar bear and a digital clock that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Dec. 25.
Many of his displays move — Santa climbs out of a chimney, the lid on a Christmas present opens, a see-saw tilts with Santa on one end and a reindeer on the other.
Greason, who is operations manager at Donahue Collision on Belair Road, turns the displays, lights and Christmas music on every night at 5. He also powers up two sets of outdoor trains.
The train set on his back patio is the Polar Express, so Greason makes sure the "Polar Express" movie is playing on the big screen television in the family room that's visible from the patio.
He then gets a roaring fire going in a backyard fire pit, sets a few benches and chairs in front of it, stocks coolers with refreshments and waits for visitors. This year, he's added hot chocolate to the list of beverages.
And while this is mostly a one-man show, Greason gives credit to his wife, Carol, who works at New Image Salon in New Freedom, Pa.
"She's the Christmas lights widow," he said, explaining that he spends just about all his free time from Labor Day through the first of the year on the displays.
"Most of the time, I just go out with him and he'll hold something up and ask me what I think," Carol said. "It takes a long time to get things ready, but once the lights are on, it's great."
Although he doesn't keep track of expenses for displays and lights and refreshments — he certainly doesn't want Carol to know — Greason's electric bill is $1,200 to $1,500 total for the six weeks he lights up the night sky.
His neighbors know their community will be inundated with traffic each December, but people like Joyce Branger think it's a wonderful idea.
"We had heard about Chuck when we moved in six years ago, and it's now part of our Christmas tradition," she said. "He is the most generous man and you never feel like you are intruding. He loves people to enjoy all his hard work."
The lights are on every night from 5 to 11 p.m. from Thanksgiving to Jan. 5. His house is at 22 Kitzbuhel Road, Parkton. For directions, call 410-357-8412.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun