Hunting for local light shows is a common tradition for families during the holiday season.
But there’s one house in Puyallup that takes holiday decorating — and family time — to another level.
Every year in December, Santa, Mrs. Claus and two elves make an appearance at one house at 1615 34th St. SE on Puyallup.
The face behind the Santa beard? Puyallup resident Troy Halfaday.
“We dress up as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus,” said Halfaday, a social studies teacher at Ballou Junior High and a co-coach of Emerald Ridge High School’s football team. “Our kids end up dressing up as elves.”
Halfaday puts on his Santa costume and sits in his homemade sleigh in the center of his cul de sac, greeting those who pass by to see the lights surrounding him.
We love it. It keeps you busy. You come out and put up the lights with the kids, and the world slows down a bit.
At first, the lights and Christmas music might be what grabs the most attention. Halfaday’s house is lit up from the roof to the porch in lights, including a large cross display on the the roof. But the decorations don’t stop there. Halfaday extends his decorating around the cul de sac with strings of lights and inflated Santas, reindeer and snowmen.
When cars pull up, Halfaday’s children — 16-year-old Haylee and 14-year-old Ethan — are there to greet them with candy canes. Known as the Santa Family, the Halfadays also offer Santa pictures for those who are interested.
“We end up going out for a couple of hours and people stop by,” said Halfaday, 45. “It’s a family thing. It’s a tradition.”
Growing up, Halfaday remembers his parents decorating his 800-square-foot childhood home in Puyallup.
“I remember running down the (hallway) — which I can now take two steps down — and looking through the window and seeing lights,” Halfaday said. “My mom and dad just made it special.”
After he married and moved into his current home, Halfaday and his wife, Julie, started the decorating tradition. One year, he suggested dressing up. At first, Julie said no way, but after her kids bought her a Mrs. Claus costume one year, she couldn’t help but dress up, and was hooked ever since.
“My wife has been so supportive and kind in having us do this,” Halfaday said. “Hopefully the kids and grandkids will continue (the tradition).”
Halfaday’s father now lives in Tacoma, and the Halfadays still make the trip to help decorate his house. Every year, they sneak some lights back to their own home to add to their collection.
I love when kids come around and I see the smile on kids faces.
“I stole my dad’s lights,” Halfaday said. “He had all the old lights and we turned them into LED lights.”
It takes the Santa Family from the end of October to Thanksgiving to set up all the decorations. In the offseason, Halfaday keeps the sled and decorations in his backyard shed.
“It’s chaos, but it’s organized chaos,” he joked.
For the Halfadays, the best part about being the “Santa Family” is the family time they get to spend together. After Julie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last spring, Halfaday said he didn’t want to take any family time for granted.
“We’re just so thankful for the opportunities that we get (to spend time together),” he said.
Meeting new people — and old friends — makes it all worthwhile, too.
“It brings all the same love that he has for us and we radiate that to other people,” said Haylee, a senior at Emerald Ridge.
“I love when kids come around and I see the smile on kids faces,” added Ethan, who attends Ballou.
He’s my hero. It’s not Christmas without him.
Rick Proto, Halfaday’s neighbor
But the Santa Family excursion has not been without its ups and downs. One year, vandals slashed their inflatable decorations. Another year, their lit-up cross, made by Halfaday in remembrance of his grandfather who died in 2005, took a topple and smashed all over the roof.
But each year also brings unexpected rewards. The same year their decorations were vandalized, someone left brand-new decorations in Halfaday’s yard the next day. Another year, when passersby were slim, a wild buck crossed their street right in front of them. For several years, Halfaday’s property was featured on Steve Pool’s Parade of Lights on KOMO News.
“We love it,” Halfaday said. “It keeps you busy. You come out and put up the lights with the kids, and the world slows down a bit.”
Halfaday’s neighbors join in on the holiday fun. The house behind Halfaday’s hosts a light and music show. Neighbors Rick Proto and Karen Curnow came to visit the Santa Family on Saturday.
“He’s my hero,” Proto said about Halfaday. “It’s not Christmas without him.”
Halfaday says the Santa Family plans to be out in costume this Saturday evening (Dec.17).