At Halloween, the kids who come to the door at Chuck and Sherry Hudgins’ house say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Trick or treat.”
That’s because their house is Christmas Fantasyland, and it all started with line dancing.
When they were in their 40s, Chuck and Sherry met at a bar that offered line dancing and two-stepping. They started dancing and dating.
Sherry had a tri-level home in the West End. Chuck asked, “Do you mind if I throw a few lights on your house?”
She said, “Go ahead.”
He put 10,000 lights on her house. “I didn’t know if I was going to shock her or not,” Chuck said. “But she liked it. And it grew from there.”
In 1999, they got married and bought a house at 6444 Little Sorrel Drive. They moved on Dec. 1, looked at each other and said: “We need to get this place decorated.”
Located on a cul-de-sac in Mechanicsville, the Little Sorrel house has become known as Christmas Fantasyland with over 70,000 lights decorating the traditional colonial home.
The brightly lit deer pulling Santa’s sleigh along the roof are like the icing on the cake of this house. The tall deer with 3,000 lights make the house look like something straight off a Christmas card.
But it’s not easy to keep the deer on the roof.
The first couple of years, the deer would blow off in a big rain or wind storm. Chuck used zip-ties and stands to secure them, then steel wire and aluminum strips to clamp them down. But they kept blowing off in big storms. Finally, Chuck had the metal support for the deer bolted into the rafters.
“It would take a hurricane force to take them down,” Chuck said. “They stay up there year after year.”
“If the deer come down now, I’m sure we’ve got more problems than that,” Sherry said, laughing. They’ve now had the deer for over 20 years.
Family is the big theme at Christmas Fantasyland. When they moved into the house, Sherry had four young grandchildren who loved the Christmas lights and the decorations. They put their grandchildren’s names on the roof.
“They were the cutest little elves. They would give out candy canes. It became a family tradition. Chuck would dress up like Santa Claus,” Sherry said. Chuck still dresses up like Santa on the weekends sometimes, but the grandkids are now all grown-up.
Chuck, 62, and Sherry, 66, keep the display more child-oriented, designed to delight grandkids of all ages. The yard is filled with traditional holiday characters, such as the Peanuts Gang, the Abominable Snowman, and Mickey Mouse. Chuck created a gingerbread family with the family’s names on them.
“People say to us, ‘You’re on the Tacky Light tour, but you’re not tacky at all,’” Sherry said.
“Our display is about family,” she added. “When people look at our display and walk away, they know a little bit about us. They know the names of our grandchildren. There’s a picture of us at Disneyland. They get the feel of family.”
Since the Hudginses started decorating 20 years ago, the grandkids have grown up and three more grandchildren have been added to the mix. But everybody still likes to go to “Mamma and Chuck’s house,” as they call it, on Christmas Day. It’s not Christmas until they’ve been to Christmas Fantasyland.
Little Sorrel is a popular Tacky Light house to visit in Mechanicsville, although Chuck says the buses have a hard time turning around in the narrow cul-de-sac.
Mechanicsville is becoming a hot spot for Tacky Lights. Chuck and Sherry have become friends with some of their Tacky Light neighbors, such as Donnie Leake at 5494 Smithy Court and Matthew Satterwhite’s megawatt display at 7396 Kelshire Trace. Last year, Leake rented a limo and they all went out to dinner.
“Every year, I ask myself, ‘Is it worth it doing this stuff?’ ” Chuck said. “You’re up on the roof, scraping your knuckles or dropping a hammer on your foot. But after it’s up, you see people’s faces and it’s definitely worth it.”