Don and Debbie Nichols of Napa have created a holiday wonderland at their east Napa home that will surely blow your mind.
They have completely covered the entire front and side of their house with blow mold figures, inflatable Christmas decorations, wooden cutouts, and much, much more.
There’s Santa, his reindeer, snowmen (and women), carolers, Snoopy, teddy bears, giant ice cream cones, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, polar bears, penguins, the Grinch, and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph themselves.
Most of the statues and inflatables light up and are activated by remote control.
“Don worked his fanny off this year,” said Debbie.
“We enjoy doing it,” she said. “It makes us feel good,” to see people stop and smile at the display. Their house is located at the corner of Shelter Avenue and Russell Street.
“We do it for the people, and we do it for the kids,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Debbie explained that the couple typically decorates for the holiday season, but about five years ago, their blow mold and inflatable habit began to significantly expand.
Connecting with other blow mold collectors, they started noticing many new blow molds (and inflatables) for sale at retailers such as Home Depot and Walmart.
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“Before you know it, we had 100 blow molds on our back patio,” she said. And that number keeps rising.
Don, who runs Don Nichols Plumbing, also makes and paints the wooden decorations on display, some of which have moving parts.
“This year is the biggest yet,” she said.
According to goldenglow.org, blow molds are made via a plastic manufacturing process: “A hollow tube is filled with melted plastic, placed into a steel mold, inflated with air, forcing the plastic to the interior surface of a metal mold, the metal mold is opened when cooled, the item is removed and appropriately painted.”
“Cellulose acetate was later used in the 1930s, Low Density Polyethylene (LDP) came in the 1940s, causing the blow molding industry to explode when Monsanto started making plastic squeeze bottles,” the website explains.
“Early in the 1960s, enterprising manufacturers started producing blow molded Christmas decorations,” according to goldenglow.com.
The vintage-style decorations are definitely enjoying a surge in popularity.
“They’ve got a character to them,” and a fun nostalgia factor, said Debbie. “Blow molds are what I grew up with,” she explained. “And my husband has always liked the blow ups. I like the mixture of it.”
This year it took about seven days — with the help of their two grandsons — to install the display. “We wanted it up before Thanksgiving,” Debbie said. “Our kids were coming, and the clock was ticking down.”
Both Debbie and Don are longtime Napans, and both attended Napa High. They’ve been married since 1976.
Debbie said their personal favorite is the vintage flying blow mold sled and reindeer (as seen on the Shetler Avenue side of the house). Soaring over the yard, it features fine details and color.
Locals have come to expect the display around the start of each holiday season, said Debbie. Even before it’s installed, “They start showing up before Christmas, and if they see us outside they ask ‘when is it starting?’”
“Every year we have some of the same people come by,” said Debbie. “One guy last year said, ‘You know, my wife has cancer and this puts a smile on her face.’”
Visitors have been respectful, said Debbie. Security cameras and securely staking each piece to the ground seem to have prevented any vandalism or theft.
Debbie said depending on the weather, the elaborate arrangement usually comes down around New Year’s Eve weekend. It’s much faster to dismantle, she said. Everything is stored in two sheds in their backyard.
What about their PG&E bill? Do the blow molds and inflatables cause it to blow up?
“It’s never been bad. It might go up about $50.” Plus, “We did switch out to LEDs this year.”
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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or [email protected]