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An inflated sense of elf

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- For the past 20 years, as the sun goes down in November and December, Bud Turner walks across his driveway to the garage by his house.

As darkness falls, around 5:30 p.m., Turner flips 29 switches on a circuit breaker, and in seconds the plastic blobs dotting the grass come alive.

Inflatable reindeer, snowmen, elves and Santa Clauses in almost every pose -- hunting, fishing, driving, relaxing and even using an outhouse -- cover Turner's lawn.

More than 150 extension cords serve as speed bumps along his driveway, which loops around in a circle at his riverfront home on Winfield Drive.

Paired with around 75,000 lights, Turner's 3 acres of property is almost entirely covered in Christmas decorations.

"We encourage people driving by to pull in the driveway -- we've got a circle anyway -- instead of slowing down on the road. They don't bother us," said Turner, 69.

It's safer that way, he noted. Several years ago a woman trying to look at the lights rammed into the back of a car in front of her, so Turner tries to get the word out to just pull into the driveway to take it all in.

Last year on a single night about 100 cars come through the driveway.

"I've heard some people from outside the area come down to look at it," Winfield Mayor Randy Barrett said. "He adds to it every year -- it's quite extensive."

Jazzy renditions of Christmas carols play from one inflatable decoration. On many nights, Turner's grandson, Bryson Hoff, 6, is out dressed in an elf costume dancing and handing out candy canes to people in cars that pull through the driveway.

"He tells me to hide and says elves don't have parents, so I walk over there when cars come," Turner said, pointing to a gazebo.

"We're hoping he'll outgrow it," Stacy Hoff, his mother, said about her son's elf costume.

"Oh, he likes it, Stacy; it's OK," Turner said. "Me and him are the only ones. It's Christmas every day for me and Bryson."

Turner usually exceeds the annual limit recommended by his wife, Nancy, of purchasing three new inflatables.

"I think I'm at about seven this year," he said.

"That one is new, and so is that one," said Savannah Hoff, 11, Turner's granddaughter, pointing at two of the inflatables.

Fighting the chill in the air, Bryson and Turner walked through the yard pointing at their favorite scenes of Santa last week.

"This one has a leaf on it," Bryson said, brushing off the foliage the wind had blown on to its side.

"I guess I'm about the same age as he is," Turner joked, looking at Bryson.

"Whatever doesn't move, we put lights on," he said. "That's how we get our pizza," Turner said, describing how he gives directions to delivery drivers.

Residents who live along the riverfront in Hometown have a beautiful view, as the lights along the back of his home reflect on the water.

The lights are strewn along tree branches of dozens of trees with no organization.

"Kids see all kinds of things in the lights," he said comparing them to cloud formations.

One nearly 70-foot-tall tree was decorated several years ago by a friend of Turner who owns a tree-trimming business.

"A lot of them we don't take down, just plug them back in every year," he said.

Turner said his lights don't seem to bother his neighbors, as he shuts them off at about 10 p.m., except on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

And how big are Turner's November and December electricity bills?

"Well, I don't talk about it," he said with a laugh. "My wife does."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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