Southern Shores Christmas display a labor of love

Published 9:07 am Saturday, December 26, 2020

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There is no shortage of Christmas spirit at the Borzellino home.

In fact, anyone driving along Seventh Avenue in Southern Shores will likely be blown away by the display there.

This is the eighth year Paul and Carla Borzellino have assembled almost every inflatable character imaginable in an effort to pack decades of Christmas past memories onto their plot of land. The result is a spectacular display almost beyond belief.

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“This is just what people need to brighten their season,” said Megan Cipriano, a Kitty Hawk resident checking out the displays.

Anyone needing a brighter day will likely get just that.

With thousands of lights strung around the house and spreading out into the yard in every direction imaginable, there are more than 100 inflatable characters on display with many of them also illuminated. There are actually so many lights that a visiting helicopter pilot said he could easily spot the house from the air.

Greeting people as they drive by, Paul informs them that by motoring past the home, they will miss a large part of the display.

Those who do elect to park along Seventh Avenue can wander the property overrun with reindeer, ice skating penguins, Star Wars, Disney characters, lots of Santa Claus figures and more lights than one person can count.

Several winter wonderland villages of different sizes are set up on the patio. And did we mention that there are lots of lights?

There is even Santa and his boat in the middle of the pool under several strings of lights.

As people freely wander around, many can be seen pointing out a character or Christmas scene that brings back memories and traditions from their own childhood. For some, it’s comforting to know that many of the traditions they enjoyed are still available for future generations. For others, it’s the simple magic of Christmas and the love that’s shared at this special time of year.

More than just a bunch of holiday decorations, Carla said they usually start unpacking displays around Thanksgiving. Then it becomes an all day project just to get everything up by mid-December. This year, however, the schedule was a little more rushed than usual in order to meet a civic association contest deadline. Then, with almost everything in place, a nor’easter almost took it all down.

“These displays don’t like the wind,” offered Paul.

Using hundreds of bricks painted to match the floor around the pool, and almost as many wood blocks, the more than 100 inflatables are weighted and tied down so they do not blow away.

File folders hold lists of the overall inventory. Each list serves as a reference to avoid duplicates when looking for new items and to help locate individual display items when packed for the summer. There are also notes about what is popular and where items are positions for the final display.

Sometimes, however, a note doesn’t tell the whole story.

While unpacking a Star Wars AT-AT inflatable from a 14-inch cube box, Paul is alerted to an attached note indicating that a repair is needed.

Paul said he doesn’t remember what the repair might be, and after the inflatable goes up, there is no evidence that anything is wrong. So it’s on with the show.

It’s actually the second act of a longer running show.

The first edition was started as a display for the Borzellinos’ grandkids at their Warrington, Virginia home. Because that home was off the beaten path, not very many people saw it. Mostly family and close friends.

When they retired and moved to the Outer Banks in 2012 the tradition continued, expanding on many ideas from previous years in Virginia. The result has been to turn their home into a Christmas display that some say resembles a layer cake with icing.

The Borzellinos have also developed a following with lots of people returning each year, often bringing friends or family. A growing number of visitors also offer donations, which helps cover the cost of cookies for visitors to munch on while browsing the displays.

An integral part of the community, Southern Shores Police Chief David Kole said the town has had a number of compliments on the Borzellino display.

While some people donate money, others give more than that. Some people have donated inflatables, lights are another donated item.

“People come back and say they are not using their lights and want up to put them to good use,” explains Paul.

One visitor even surprised the Borzellinos with a dog house and another visitor from Duck gave them some Department 56 items.

Everybody is encouraged to sign the guest book.

Paying attention to even the smallest of details, Paul uses a special staple to hold strings of lights in place. In the early years it was all Paul and Carla. Recently, however, additional help was recruited like Ray Wells, who climbed up on the roof for the light display and Bud Reynolds who helped trim pampas grasses for better views from the road. He also hired a crew to caulk most of the deck to keep water off the first floor displays. Tarps are positioned to help block the wind. Family members like their granddaughter’s new husband J.J. Allen also pitched with many hours on key display elements adding inflatables.

As time consuming as it is to set their displays up, the Borzellinos are locked in through January 5 once everything is in place.

“Once we start it we can’t leave it,” they explained. “There is so much wind here the inflatables suffer if they are up more than a couple of weeks.”

When asked how much was invested, Paul said he never really thought about the cost.

“I can tell you this,” he added. “It’s a lot.”

Carla did say, however, that the monthly electric bill jumps an additional $400 to $500 during the time their inflatables and lights are up.

That could be money well spent considering that one recent night there were 139 counted visitors. Last year on Christmas Eve the total was 135.

According to Carla, “Many of our visitors have warm tears accompanying their comments of gratitude. They constantly express heartfelt appreciation to us for all our hard work in bringing them a ‘magical’ experience at the end of a tragic year for our country and the whole world.”



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