Baltimore County

A glow in the sky

Chuck Greason decorates his 3-acre property in Parkton every year with Christmas lights. People bring cans of food for the food bank. He has been setting up 5,000 lights and 150 lawn ornaments. Plus, he has a toy train.

If the lights in your home dim at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, don't call BGE. It's likely just Chuck Greason sucking power from the grid as he turns on 5,000 lights and powers up trains and hundreds of Christmas lawn ornaments.

The Parkton man has been brightening the lives of children and adults for 23 years. His display on Kitzbuhel Road will run every evening from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. It even includes extras like hot chocolate, a fire pit, and a swing attached to a tree with a lighted 60-foot cable.


Greason doesn't charge visitors to wander through his winter wonderland, but asks people to bring nonperishable or canned goods for a local food bank. He is in the business of merry-making, not money-making.

"I can't even tell you how many hours I spend on this, but it's all worth it when I see the kids' faces light up," said Greason, 56. "Coming here has become a tradition for so many families. I get thank-you notes and drawings kids have done. It's great [that] this place is now part of their Christmas memories."


He added, "People tell me this is better than Hampden," which is home to the celebrated lights' display in row houses on 34th Street in Baltimore.

His next-door neighbors, Kerri and Tyler Therit, moved in last October, so they've experienced one Greason Christmas season.

"We knew about it before we bought the house, and it's just incredible," Kerri Therit said. "It's just a fun thing to look at and it's such a nice family event. It's much better than being stuck in a mall. Chuck is in his element with all of this. You can tell he loves doing it."

Greason decorates about 1 acre of his 3-acre property and adds new features or switches things around each year. His front yard is filled with120 lawn ornaments. There are reindeer, snowmen, angels, penguins, Christmas trees, Santas and elves, as well as pigs, bears, horses and giraffes. Some move — like a deer sipping water from a pond — and all have lights.

Overlooking the entire display is a motion-activated, full-size Santa who dances as he sings some 10 Christmas carols.

A few years ago, Greason added several trains in front of his house. He now has eight locomotives pulling a total of 50 cars.

But the trains don't just go round and round. They go through tunnels and over ponds, and pass under the legs of reindeer. As they speed through tiny towns, they trigger a light to go on in an outhouse or a figure to emerge from a store. Greason's attention to detail is everywhere. He spent hours putting a tiny light in the cockpit of a helicopter that's part of a military train convoy.

The backyard is decorated, too. There is an 18-foot-tall hot-air balloon, with Santa as its passenger. The Polar Express train runs on an outside table, while the movie of the same name plays inside the house on a big-screen TV. But, the swing, fire and refreshments are the big draw.


Aaron Merrill, now 36 and the owner of Merrill Tree Experts, was just a teen when he climbed up Greason's tree to attach the swing. He was working for Bill Anaker, famous for installing swings all over North County.

Merrill now volunteers his time each year to visit Greason before Thanksgiving and make sure the swing is safe. He then returns with his family on Christmas Eve to take in the spectacle and ride on the swing, of course.

A labor of love

While Labor Day signals the end of summer for most, it starts Greason's labor of love. He slowly unpacks everything he'll need to turn his yard into a spectacle. Always thinking a step ahead, he put things away in January in exact order, so what he needs first in September will be at the front of the pile.

He is a stickler for not having any wires show, so he digs trenches to hide the thousands of feet of wire that snake out of his garage to power up the displays. His electric bill quadruples each year.

Most mornings before he leaves for work as operations manager at Donahoo Collision on Belair Road, Greason tests bulbs, repairs a broken angel wing or sets up the Christmas countdown clock, showing the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Dec. 25. He works on displays in the evening for a few hours, and all day Saturday and Sunday.

When in repair mode, Check wears a brown leather vest with two pockets on each side. "Black tape, white tape, white bulbs, colored bulbs," he says, patting each pocket.


"When I first met Chuck and he said he was getting things ready for Christmas, I said I'd help, thinking I'd hang a few lights outside the house," said Eleni Passamichalis, Greason's girlfriend who, along with her two sons, lives with him. "It took me a while to understand what he was doing, but now I just see his empathy and his compassion toward anybody who visits. I see what people experience when they come here. It's wonderful."

The 1978 graduate of Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School in Baltimore said he bought his first outdoor Christmas display for his parents' lawn with money from his newspaper route when he was in his teens. That display — Rudolph and eight reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh — now sits on the roof of his Parkton house.

Just before he opens his property for the season, Greason lugs several large trash cans to his driveway entrance to collect canned goods. The food goes to the Baltimore North Cluster Food Bank at Pine Grove United Methodist Church on Middletown Road.

"We really appreciate the items he gives us. It's a tremendous effort," said Joan Patterson, who runs the food bank with Peggy Maple. "It really helps us restock our shelves after the holidays."

The lights, lawn ornaments, displays, music and hot chocolate are all on a timer and begin at 5 p.m. The trains don't start until 6, because Greason wants to be there to make sure there aren't any obstructions on the tracks.

Chuck Greason's home is located at 22 Kitzbuhel Road, Parkton. Visitors are welcomed until 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. If you can't find it, just follow the glow in the sky.