Grand Lake area residents join
latest fad to inflate the holiday spirit
By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
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”
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.”