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Holiday display in Parkton shines from Thanksgiving through New Year's

When everybody else was planning Labor Day picnics, Chuck Greason was outside stringing up his Christmas lights.

During Ravens games, he was in his garage, fixing loose reindeer legs or painting Santa's elves.

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By Halloween, Greason was working on the seven train sets that run around the front of his Parkton property.

His reward will come on Thanksgiving.

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As night falls, Greason will flip the switch on an annual outdoor holiday spectacular — now in its 15th year — that features 50,000 lights.

"Coming here has become part of so many people's Christmas traditions," said Greason, operations manager at Donahoo Collision on Belair Road, who urges visitors to wander his 3-acre property-turned-holiday-wonderland and then relax in front of a fire pit while sipping hot chocolate.

"My brother told me that if I ever stop doing this, I'll have to advertise I'm not doing it anymore because people will still show up," said Greason, 54.

"I'm happy to do it," Greason said. "All I ask is that [visitors] bring food for the local food bank."

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More trains

Greason adds something new to the display each year. This year he has seven trains running along tracks instead of last year's four. And he is always moving displays around or attaching more lights to them.

"It's like a work of art for me. I take a deer that doesn't move and put it out back and bring a deer that dips its head and move it up by the pond," he said. "I have a Santa and reindeer that I put on a board I painted black. When I have that up, you can't see the board and it looks like they're really flying."

His displays include both moving and stationary polar bears, penguins and geese, as well as stars, elves and candy canes. Kids will find Santa climbing up a ladder, floating in a hot air balloon and emerging from a chimney.

There is no detail too small for Greason's attention. Lights that decorated four huge pine trees had faded over the years, so he just bought 8,000 replacement lights in bright primary colors. His electric bill quadruples each December.

His trains not only go through tunnels and over a pond, they also trip lights and action as they go past tiny buildings. Kids will watch to see a man go out the door of a store and a light go on in an outhouse as the trains rumble by.

He also likes to set up themed areas. In addition to several characters from Charlie Brown arranged near each other, Greason created the Island of Misfit Toys from the animated Christmas special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," complete with Herme the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and Charlie in the Box.

In a nod to the movie, "A Christmas Story," Greason sets up a flagpole with a sign that triple-dog dares visitors to give the pole a lick.

On his back patio, people can watch the Polar Express train go around tracks on a table while also looking through a sliding door into his basement where the movie plays on a television.

"Chuck just enjoys seeing people enjoy his lights," said his next-door neighbor, Scott Jacobi. "We go over there when we have friends over and now we have an 18-month-old daughter so we'll be going there more. Only problem is, she'll grow up thinking everybody's property looks like Chuck's."

Jacobi said he and other neighbors joke that he should put lights up on his roof that spell out "Ditto," with an arrow pointing to Greason's property.

Sweet sight

On Thanksgiving, Greason will put two 8-foot lighted candy canes at the entrance to his drive to announce he's open for business. Visitors will find several large bins there for canned goods that go to the North Cluster Food Bank at Pine Grove United Methodist Church on Middletown Road in Parkton. Last year, he delivered three truckloads of food to help the needy.

"We are grateful for everything he brings in," said Joan Patterson, who runs the food bank with Peggy Maple. "He always has a wide variety of canned goods and since we rely solely on donations to feed 55 families, we appreciate that he thinks of us."

Greason likes to be home each evening to make sure everything is running smoothly and to enjoy the joy he brings.

"I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing the looks on people's faces when they come here," he said. "People just get so excited. That's why I do it."

The lights go on a 5 p.m. and trains start at 6 p.m. each night from Thanksgiving until Jan. 3. Everything is shut off at 10:30 p.m.

The Greason Christmas display is at 22 Kitzbuhel Road, Parkton. For directions, call 410-357-8412.

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