Disney World meets the North Pole for the holidays at this Evans home
Some people celebrate Christmas by stringing hundreds of lights on their house every year. Others blanket their yard with a dozen holiday inflatables. Minimalists might hang a single wreath on the door.
Then there’s Evans resident Monty “Santa” Clark, who hand-crafts his own outdoor decorations for the holidays. For almost four decades, he has built life-size, Christmas-themed plywood cutouts of Disney characters to display on his front lawn in St. Andrews subdivision off of Evans to Locks Road.
“You have to create love this time of year,” says Clark, who also dresses as jolly old St. Nick. “I want people to come to my house to see what I’ve done – and bring a smile with them.”
Clark, who works as an electrical construction supervisor, made his first cutout 37 years ago. His mother had made a Santa Claus and a Disney character to put in her yard two years earlier, and he was inspired.
“I loved them, and I wanted to do it, too,” Clark says.
His wife, Lynne, aka his “quality control officer,” was on board, and the tradition grew after their now-grown children, Rebekah, Peyton and Seth, were born. With the addition of four granddaughters and a grandson to the family, their efforts only intensified.
However, he not only made characters for his wife and children. He constructed Goofy in 1990 for his stepfather. After he passed away, however, his mother gave the cutout back to her son.
He also made the eight not-so-tiny reindeer pulling a sleigh for his late father-in-law. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, which Clark made 25 or 30 years ago, are longtime members of the cutout family as well.
Other characters at the lawn party include Donald Duck and Daisy Duck, along with Huey, Dewey and Louie; Scrooge McDuck; Pluto; Winnie the Pooh with Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore; and Pongo and Perdita, the lovestruck pups of 101 Dalmatians fame.
As Clark’s family has changed, so has the cast of characters.
“Every couple of years or so, I build a new one,” says Clark. “When I had granddaughters, I had to start making Disney princesses.”
In honor of the film, Frozen, he built a vignette of characters including Elsa; Anna; Olaf, the snowman; and Sven, the reindeer.
Another set includes the stars of Beauty and the Beast such as Belle; the Beast; Mrs. Potts, the enchanted teapot; and Lumiere, the charismatic candelabra.
“I like to make scenes and groupings of different characters,” Clark says.
Join the Crowd
Clark first picked up a paintbrush before he started making the cutouts. After he was electrocuted on the job in 1981, painting was part of his therapy when he was in and out of the hospital for 11 months as a burn patient.
He uses exterior house paint on the plywood characters so they can withstand the elements. He paints the side, back and bottom of every board. To fill in the details, he uses makeup brushes.
“I paint until the character comes alive and tells me that I’m done,” Clark says. “Once the character looks like it can talk to me, I know I’m finished. It says, ‘Thank you for making me. I’m ready to join the crowd.’”
When his daughters were young and invited friends to their house to play, the girls always wanted to help. Some of the characters that he made with them include Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.
“I let the kids paint them, and I told them not to worry about any mistakes because I could paint over them,” says Clark.
It takes him about four days to make a character, but he doesn’t have a particular plan for deciding which one to create. “I just feel it,” he says.
The Clarks start putting the cutouts in their yard the day after Halloween, and it takes them about three weeks to have each one in place.
“It’s a family activity,” Clark says. “They help me paint the characters and set them up in the yard.”
Visiting children can touch the characters and have their pictures taken with them. Although people have tried to buy the cutouts from him, he never sells them.
When Clark retires a character, he gives it to one of hisaughters to put in her yard.
Ho, Ho, Ho
Clark has been dressing as “Santa Clark” for about 10 years, and he knew when the time was right to take on his alter ego.
“My hair and my beard turned snow white,” he says.
As “Santa Clark,” he spends time with special needs children and does a few private parties. He uses the income he earns from the parties to donate to charities or to buy gifts for others.
On a Saturday or Sunday each year, Clark dons his Santa suit and sits in his yard so people can take pictures with him. The day varies, according to his schedule or the weather, but he posts a sign at the entrance to the subdivision to let passersby know they can visit Santa Claus.
“I enjoy bringing a smile to people’s faces,” he says. “People might be having a bad day, but they’re going to smile when they see Santa.”
They can’t help but grin when they see his characters as well.
“I want people to enjoy them, relax and feel good when they leave,” Clark says.