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The Daily



12-11-03: Decorations reach new heights

Grand Lake area residents join latest fad to inflate the holiday spirit


Giant Santas and good ’ole Frosty the snowmen have popped up everywhere in the Grand Lake St. Marys area.
The blow-up decorations, even with their friendly smiles, are a little intimidating when their hats barely clear the spouting.
“Yeah, they’re big, but I really think the blow-ups are neat,” said Shirley Gephart of Rockford, whose front yard is graced by a clan of the inflatable holiday giants. “Christmas is, after all, my favorite season.”
That’s not hard to believe. Gephart, 54, likes to decorate for the seasons and didn’t mind turning her front lawn over to the 7-foot-plus inflatables. There’s Santa with his sleigh and reindeer, a towering snowman, a bright green tree complete with ornaments, and her latest addition — a Dalmatian dressed in Christmas attire.
Welcome to this year’s newest fad — inflatable Christmas decorations. Area people seem to love ’em, and so do local store managers who can’t keep them on the shelves. By Tuesday this week, Kmart in St. Marys had only two of the giant, vinyl trees and one reindeer in stock, and none expected to arrive anytime soon.
“We put them on display and they kind of sold themselves,” laughed Donna Hembree, assistant store manager.
Nearby, boxes of inflatable 3-foot nutcrackers and candy canes seem to go unnoticed by Kmart shoppers. Apparently, they’re about two yards shy of the size needed to “wow” passing motorists.
Kmart employee Andy Coleman guessed the company has sold about 100 of the air-blown characters including monsters, which were popular at Halloween and, of course, Brutus Buckeye. The Ohio State mascot sold for about $70 and was extinct after the first week it arrived, Coleman said.
Most of the large inflatables found locally cost under $40. Area store managers said they’ve had the new crave on their shelves for about three years, but they’ve really peaked in popularity this year for some reason.
What’s so appealing about the inflatables? Well, for one, most come with built-in fans and light bulbs. You plug them in, they inflate automatically, and walla, you’re done.
Sure beats tangling with strands of Christmas lights.
Tom Klosterman of Coldwater has an 8-foot Santa Claus in his yard along Ohio 219. His wife, Barb, thinks the big guy is “cute.”
“He’s our second one. We had a large ghost up at Halloween,” she said.
Barb Klosterman said recently someone stopped, got out and took a picture of their subtle lawn decor.
“We figured they were just taking a picture of Santa, so we just waved at them from the front window,” she said.
The Klostermans bought Santa at Aldi’s in Celina for about $25, and he came with guide wire and stakes to keep him grounded. “But we have to work with him a little at first to stand him up straight,” Barb Klosterman said with a laugh.
Wal-Mart in Celina also had its share of inflatable sales this year, starting with the Grinch who sold out immediately, said Sandy Slife, lawn and garden department manager. Homer Simpson was a hit, too, she said.
“I still have people asking for them,” she said, adding that the store has less than 10 inflatable decorations left. “The word’s out about these things. Many people are buying more than one.”
Internet surfers, like Gephart, can find a whole world of inflatables for sale at the click of a button. The sky’s the limit, and so is the price tag. The Daily Standard found the Cat in the Hat retailing for $135. The Grinch and his dog Max and a larger-than-life striped Tigger are fetching nearly $170.
Gephart, who already has a blow-up turkey for Thanksgiving, Uncle Sam for all the patriotic holidays and a pink bunny for Easter, has her eye on a cuddly bear with a big heart for, you guessed it, Valentine’s Day.
“It would probably be the last one I would need to complete the holidays,” she said. “It’s a running joke around here. People can’t wait to see what’s next.”
But is it just a fad? Not for Gephart.
“I think they’re going to last until somebody thinks of something else. But I know one thing, I’ll use mine for years and years to come,” she said. “I’ve got too much money stuck in them.”


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
All content copyright 2003
The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822