For just over a month, the Mink home in Switzerland County turns Bethel Ridge into ‘Bethlehem Ridge’.
Donna (Beatty) Mink has always decorated for the Christmas holiday — but even she admits that each year is now outdoing the previous one.
“Each year just gets a little bigger, that’s all,” she laughs. “I’ve always put stuff out, but maybe 15 years ago it really started to grow. It’s really gotten big in the last 10 (years).”
The result? A Christmas display at the Mink home on Bethel Ridge near Florence that is truly spectacular.
Donna said that this year there are 464 of the hard plastic blow mold figures spanning the yard, and a count of Christmas lights results in a number over 70,000.
In essence, for just over a month the county road is lined with vehicles driving up and down the road, checking out the display.
Donna says she casts a wide net when adding to her collection.
“Clearance sales a lot, ebay,” she says. “Scotty, my mailman, has delivered a lot from ebay. We’ve gotten them from junk stores, yard sales. I’ve really amped them up (the blow molds) in the last five years, but now they’re getting where people are collecting them, so we’re not getting them.”
And with nearly 500 figures on the property, the Minks have worked hard to organize everything into a true Christmas display.
Santa plays a prominent role in the overall display, but there’s also a large choir to be enjoyed, and one area features the flags of the different branches of the military in a salute to all soldiers, past and present. A reindeer stable is another new feature for 2020.
But not only organizing — but maintaining and securing the different items is a big task, because the display needs to stand up — literally and figuratively — to the winter weather.
“We actually just put them on the boards this year, so it’s gotten a little better,” Donna says. “Each year we try and figure out a little easier way to put them out. Putting them on boards means less tie down time. I tie them all down with tobacco sticks. I’m cutting them tobacco sticks up and my dad would have had a fit!”
Donna said that she gets assistance from husband Dewayne, as well as her sister-in-law, JoKay Beatty, and friend Steve Smith to make the overall process run more easily.
“They help me do a lot of stuff in the summer getting ready,” Donna said. “And my husband is always there to drag stuff out that I need.”
And with the figures attached to boards, putting things out and bringing it back in for storage at the end of the season becomes a much easier task.
“The drummer boys, they’re a pain to tie down,” Donna laughs. “You’ve gotta take two sticks and twine — so we’ve put them on skids. I’m trying to make it more ‘friendly’ so when I get older I can keep doing it.”
Donna said the process of bringing the display out into their yard and construction actually began on the first of October.
“I put the choir out first and a tarp it, because I don’t want the blow molds to get faded,” she said. “In July we started working and tying them down on boards and we started repairing and switching out lights because I’ve switched to all LED lights, so we had to switch them all out. But I was home more, so it was easier, with all this crap (COVID) going on.”
Donna says that the LED lights have many benefits, and leading the way is the impact on the Minks electric bill, where past years with traditional bulbs saw an increase of about $200-$300 a month but now she says that she’s only seen a rise of about $70 over normal months.
Does Donna have a favorite part of her display?
“I like the sled and the reindeers,” she says. “We got new reindeers this year, and my cousin and my brother, they originally made the sled for me, and they also made the outhouse — which I’ve turned into a reindeer stable. It’s a magical stable, it opens up to 30 reindeer!”
Donna says that the display is on every night from dusk until dawn, noting that she leaves it on all night, but an occasional short in the cold weather might mean she needs to go and flip a breaker.
She turned the display on on Thanksgiving night; and it stays on until she begins taking everything down and storing it away on December 28th.
So if you’re looking for an impressive Christmas display right here in Switzerland County this holiday season, families still have a few days left until next Monday.
“I love it,” Donna says. “My best part is that they bring the residents from the Nursing Home out. This is their third year coming out. I think they had to make several trips this year. They’re making two and three trips a night in order to get people out, and I think that’s awesome. That’s what makes the season for me — that people get to enjoy it.”