They don’t call it spooky season for nothing.
From skeletons to ghosts, and vampires to goblins, front yards across Westmoreland County are filled with creepy-crawlies this time of year.
But some folks can’t help but go over the top when it comes to seasonal decorations. The National Retail Federation estimates consumer spending on Halloween-related items will top $10 billion, up from about $8 billion in 2020. More than $3 billion of that will go toward decorations. An NRF survey found 52% of respondents plan to do some sort of Halloween decorating.
The Trib spoke with a few residents who are taking their decor to a higher level.
Chris Naples wasn’t sure how he was going to top his Halloween display from last year, but he did.
He bought supplies to make fluorescent water shoot out of two skeletons’ bony faces into a pool and created a scene featuring characters in Netflix series “Squid Game” in his North First Street front yard.
He and fiancée Sarah Pytlak weren’t planning on creating the elaborate scene, but they went with it. Naples recalled enjoying looking at Halloween displays around his neighborhood as a kid.
“In the current climate … there’s not too much stuff to do,” he said.
The couple plans to turn the skeleton pool into a decoration for next month’s holiday … somehow.
“I’m anxious to see how this all translates into Thanksgiving,” Naples said.
Kirk Nicholson had to add a small asphalt pad next to his mailbox on Manor Road a few years ago, because too many people were stopping on a semi-blind curve to ogle his Halloween display.
It’s hard to blame them. A string of life-sized plastic jack-o’-lanterns hanging under his porch roof is mostly obscured by a massive lineup of inflatables featuring affable, yellow Minion characters — some taller than Nicholson himself — dressed for the holiday as skeletons, vampires and the like.
“I do this for Halloween, for Christmas and for the Penguins season,” said Nicholson as he showed the eight additional power outlets he’s installed in his front yard to cut down on extension cords.
The Minion theme started with Nicholson’s daughter.
“She really liked it, so I gave her the first one I bought,” He said. “But I liked it so much, I went out and bought about $1,000 of them for this year.”
Folks who drive by more than once will notice that Nicholson regularly changes things around, swapping out inflatables and moving them to different spots.
He has been creating large-scale Halloween displays for more than three decades. It has come a long way since the days he was raking leaves into a giant orange bag to make massive jack-o’-lanterns.
And there are plans to expand.
“My mother-in-law bought the house next door, and I’ve already got two of the Minions in her yard,” he said with a laugh.
The Ruggieri family loves Halloween — and giving back. So when they spotted the Skeletons for St. Jude Research Hospital online fundraising campaign, it was a perfect match for the family of four.
“This checks all the boxes for us,” Suzanne Ruggieri said.
The St. Jude fundraiser started with a North Carolina family who last year put up a sign with donation information in their yard along with Halloween decorations. Others across the country, including the Ruggieris, jumped on board with their displays this year.
Ruggieri said her family has been decorating their home at the corner of Mace and Guthrie streets for years, changing it up and adding more annually. They have skeletons climbing the brick exterior, animated witches around a cauldron and a vampire that moves around in its wooden coffin, among plenty of other spooky sights.
The display, when it catches the interest of someone in the neighborhood, also serves as a way for 11-year-old Gabriel to hand out treats and give tours. Suzanne said she, Gabriel, her husband, John, and their daughter, Emily, 14, will get started on the display earlier next year and hope to make signs for the fundraising component more prominent.
“It truly is a family thing for us,” Ruggieri said.
There are QR codes on signs in the yard for spectators to use for donating to St. Jude.