Christmas is an important time for James Mathy — who with a little help from a cast of characters from the North Pole to the Isle of Misfit Toys to Hennepin County, Minn., fictional home of Charlie Brown — wants to share the festive spirit of the season with the community.
For the last eight years, Mathy, of Rome, has devoted countless hours to hand-craft this merry band of characters to the delight of visitors young, old and in-between who make a trip to his grandparents Dick and Helen Martin’s home at 403 E. Linden St. to see the latest additions to the elaborate display.
“Christmas has always been an important time for me,” Mathy said. “I grew up going to the city Christmas tree lighting and seeing the Trinkaus displays my great-grandfather helped build when he worked at Trinkaus Manor.”
With a love for Christmas and woodworking, Mathy set out to make something memorable.
“I started the display to create memories for families that can last a lifetime,” Mathy said. “They were kids before, but now they’re teenagers driving by, and they tell me how their parents would take them by [the house].”
Mathy started with Snoopy of “Peanuts” fame, complete with a decorated doghouse; Frosty the Snowman; and the Grinch. Each year, new pieces are added, creating a festive collection of holiday favorites.
“I made a promise to myself that I would add new pieces every year,” Mathy said. Among them are now all the characters from “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schultz; there’s Rudolph, Hermey the Misfit Elf, Yukon Cornelius, King Moonracer, and a presumably rehabilitated Bumble, among others, from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;” as well as characters from “The Grinch,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and numerous classic Disney favorites such as Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Pinnochio and Dumbo.
There are even some of Mathy’s own designs, including “Candyland Corner,” which features a gingerbread house, lollipops, candy canes, ice cream cones, and gumdrops as well as a church decoration which stands at 20-foot tall at the steeple.
Setting out the display begins early in November, Mathy said, and ends by Thanksgiving.
Mathy said his favorite piece is the red fence in front of the display, which has 12 8-foot long sections with each section having around 200 lights in it.
And it’s all worth it, Mathy said, adding the community’s response is always positive, and there’s always somebody stopping by to talk when the family is putting up decorations.
“Especially with COVID-19, I’m glad I was able to continue the display. Because this year, more than ever, we need something to take our minds off of COVID,” Mathy said. “It brings us back to that time as a child again, even if it’s for a few minutes.”