Juneau resident Jeff Campbell bought two truckloads of Christmas lights and decorations at a garage sale more than 20 years ago. Ever since then, he’s been decorating his house in a big way, making his downtown neighborhood a more festive and bright place. People joke that you can see his house from space.
On a drizzly Monday night, 8-year-old Ferguson Wheeler counts the number of Santa Clauses at Jeff Campbell’s house in a neighborhood near the Federal Building known as The Flats.
“I add Santas every year,” Campbell said. “That’s always new. The kids come and count the Santas.”
“How many Santas?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you. The kids got to count them.”
Besides Santas, the busy holiday display includes reindeer, candy canes, nativity scenes, nutcrackers, drummer boys, Disney and Winnie the Pooh characters, and thousands of lights. There’s not much room to walk around the yard. Campbell has even wired some outdoor speakers to play Christmas music.
He creates his own decorations as well.
“Snoopy on his house, because of the new Peanuts movie. Whatever the newest kid movie out – the Christmas movie – I try to do a character from that,” Campbell said.
More than 600 lights on a plywood board in the shape of Snoopy radiate heat and good cheer.
Campbell has been covering his house and yard with lights and decorations since the early 90s and each year the display grows.
“Ninety-eight percent of it is from garage sales, unless I get something on a blow-out sale at a store,” Campbell said.
He starts setting up for Christmas right after he takes the Halloween lights and decorations down. He tends to put things in the same spot every year for simplicity’s sake.
“Some of these guys are marked where they go, so I don’t have to think about it and it gets out a lot faster,” Campbell explained.
He points to a written message on the back of a Santa: Under the ash tree.
“So I know where he goes.”
Campbell debuted the lights Dec. 4 by flipping eight switches. The lights turn on daily after work, and off around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. He’ll turn them off for good in early January.
His electricity bill has been doing better since LED lights became part of his collection.
“It used to triple from what we normally had. Now, it’s doing better. It’s a little over double,” Campbell said.
The cost of holiday joy, though, is priceless. Campbell’s house is known around town.
Cars constantly slowdown and children walk into his yard to pose for photos — something Campbell has no problem with.
“A neighbor, one time, did hijack a Santa and he took pictures around town with him — up on the tram and the glacier and had pictures of them sent to us,” Campbell said.
Campbell occasionally receives donated decorations, as well. There’s Goofy next to some bushes on the edge of the property, but he needs a better spot.
“He was put here. Someone left him. Either I’ll move him out further or I’ll find a place in the yard for him. I got one already so I have to keep them separated. I don’t want fighting,” Campbell said, laughing.
If you haven’t yet stopped by Jeff Campbell’s house on West 11th Street in The Flats, make sure you do, and don’t forget to count the Santas.