By Phillip Poupore, Point Park News Service:
In 1988, James Buzard built his first Christmas display in his Zelienople, Butler County, front yard: a small box display that showcased a model living room complete with Mr. and Mrs. Claus sitting in rocking chairs.
As time wore on, Buzard added 11 more displays that included scenes such as Santa standing in a barn with his reindeer, and Mickey Mouse and his friends ice skating on a pond.
“It will be 27 years this year,” Buzard said. “I had it in my mind a long time ago to do animation and something like this. At the time, animation had just come out.”
What started as a simple idea quickly turned into an obsession, as each year Buzard and his wife, Vicky, create a Christmas display unlike any other, complete with festive lights, a craft shop, and the famous box displays featuring animated characters.
Buzard managed to get more creative along the way. He created a scene where Santa was checking his list in his den, but in the den there is a television that has a hidden camera inside. The camera films the people that walk by the box, and runs the real time footage on the television.
The Buzards also started collecting funds for local charities, which have included churches in the area and the Children’s Institute.
“The donating started one year when a friend of mine said if we started collecting donations he would be the first to place one,” Buzard said.
The last display Buzard created was the church display back in the early 2000s. He modeled the church after a church in Connoquennessing. Along with the church there is a sign that reads, “Remember the reason for the season.”
“The church scene is the best because it holds the true meaning [of Christmas],” New Castle resident Jodie O’Laughlin said.
The Buzards estimate thousands of people come through each year. The best time to see the display is on weeknights because a majority of people go on the weekends. For the most part, there is hardly any traffic on the Buzards’ street, but they did say around the week of Christmas there is a massive jump in the number of visitors. Visitors can either drive by and look at each scene from the car, or park on a nearby street and walk to the display.
“We live in New Castle which isn’t like a hundred miles away or anything, but we still come over every year to see this and sometimes more than once a year,” Mike O’Laughlin said.
Around 2007, the Buzards made the decision to begin donating to the local food bank, and in the last seven years they have collected more than $8,000. Overall, the Buzards have collected close to $17,000 since they began collecting donations.
“It makes a huge difference,” Sharon Klaiber , director of the Southwest Butler Food Cupboard, said. “They provide us with Wal-Mart gift cards and monetary donations as well. It helps that in front of their display they have a collection box that says, ‘All proceeds go to the Southwest Butler Food Cupboard.’ It helps us to get the community to know we exist and there’s something like that to utilize. They do a lot of good.”
Along with the boxes, Buzard estimates 15,000 to 18,000 lights are used. There are various forms of lights from strands that line the garage to lights that spell out “Gift Shop Open.” In the yard behind the displays, there are lit up snowmen, candy canes, and trees.
Buzard said, “I came from a family of eight that had very little, but we prospered. So I had the idea of giving back to the less fortunate. I just wanted to make Christmas happy.”
Even though the Buzards have received hundreds of thank-you cards over the years, Buzard is able to see the impact he has had on the community in person each Christmastime.
“It’s just seeing all the people who used to come through, and then they came with their children, and now their children are bringing their own kids. It’s amazing because now it’s a family tradition,” Buzard said.
- Location: 201 Arthur St., Zelienople, Pa., 16063
- Hours: The display is lighted Sundays-Thursdays from 5:30-9:30 p.m. The hours are extended Fridays-Saturdays from 5:30-11 p.m.