Falls Church residents know the house with the biggest Christmas display around: the one at 510 East Broad Street, right across the street from Dulin United Methodist Church.
Last Sunday, sculptor Jack Lanouette flipped the switches to light up his display of thousands of lights, eight decorated Christmas trees and a large cast of sculpted characters, cupcakes, castles, and more that he has made.
Spread out along the front yard of the house are scenes like an alligator wrapped around the base of the blue-lighted Christmas Sea Tree, its branches filled with starfish and topped by a Santa-capped octopus. Next to it are carolers from Whoville to provide more whimsy to the happy display.
Santa and Mrs. Clause are on either side of the lighted straw path and welcome guests to peek inside their own Santa House – a recycled Haunted House Lanouette made for Halloween, which he renovated and furnished with holiday decorations.
And it’s all open to the public. (Donations welcome, but Lanouette asks that visitors do not bring pets as a precaution to preserve the decorations).
This outdoor show is fitting for any age, including area “bah-humbugs” who may just find their moods lifted by a fun trip to see the fantastic lights and wander though the wonder of Christmas joy and pageantry and become the wide-eyed children they used to be.
Lanouette, 31, began his Christmas show, which has become a Falls Church tradition, when he was 12. That year he made a giant nutcracker modeled after one he had seen in New York City that he said he really wanted to have.
For his sculptures, he uses foam rubber, Styrofoam, paint, a special knife, spray glue, an airbrush and a specialized plastic coating used by set designers and some roofers, among other materials.
“I generally never go to galleries,” he said. He’s just not that into abstract existential art “and its deeper meaning. My stuff does not really have a place in a gallery” since “I’m into fun things” which he loves to make.
The array of characters in the exhibition is huge. Their detail, colors, outfits and sizes are a marvel.
Their outfits endure from season to season and look sparkly new. Lanouette sews their clothes, using fleece and a polyester “fur” for the animals, which withstand the elements nicely, “as long as it’s not muddy.” One elf that has been around a while looks brand new in a plaid red and green outfit with red accessories.
Lanouette starts installation work around Thanksgiving – tweaking and adding to it right up through Christmas Eve and leaves the display up through mid-January. The light show that shines on and around them at night is pretty pricey – the thousands of lights in the display hike the family’s utility bill to about $250 a month around this time of year.
When he’s not sculpting, Lanouette works on requirements for a personal fitness trainer certificate he hopes to receive next spring. He graduated from George Mason High School and Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied sculpture. He’s previously worked at Gepetto Studios in Brooklyn, New York, which is famous for its costume design. Jack said he “learned a lot of useful things,” which he applied towards “developing [his] own technique.”
Lanouette’s displays aren’t just limited to the Christmas season – he also creates elaborate holiday universes for Halloween, complete with giant candy corn, gargoyles and skeletons.
His ultimate goal is to open and decorate a holiday farm, a “Holidayland” for visitors to walk through and enjoy.
You can see more of Lanouette’s creations at his website, enchantedsculptures.com.