WARREN TOWNSHIP, Ohio - Where do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Uncle Sam spend the offseason?
In Randy Shrider's machinery shed and workshop on Ohio 676.
Shrider and his wife, Rita, for the past decade have displayed large holiday decorations featuring Santa, the bunny, Uncle Sam, a turkey clad dressed like a Pilgrim, a ghost, snowmen and a really big heart at their home about a mile west of the Washington County Career Center. Asked why he celebrates the holidays in such a way, Shrider didn't have to try hard to answer.
Randy Shrider discusses the large holiday decorations he stores in his machinery shed and workshop until it’s time to display them outside his and his wife Rita’s home on Ohio 676. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
"Because it makes my wife happy," said Randy, the principal at Waterford High School.
That's right, his wife said. The couple appreciates how much others seem like their decorations.
"I just enjoy sharing the excitement with the neighbors and the people that go by all the time," she said.
"If it makes somebody smile, that's what it's all about," Shrider said.
The Shriders have a few inflatable items too, but the fact that you can't find these painted wooden decorations, ranging in height from about four to seven feet, just anywhere appeals to them.
"They're different," Randy said.
"You don't see these items everywhere."
Randy likes different. In addition to the antique gasoline engines he fixes, his workshop contains the raw materials for a work bench from an bowling lane with legs from an old barn. He also enjoys sharing music from his hands-free "player accordion."
"I'm eclectic, that's all I know," he said.
The collection started about 15 years ago with either the ghost or Uncle Sam. Neither Randy or Rita are sure.
Randy found them at a flea market and antique engine show in Stumptown, near Cadiz.
"He brought me home the first one, and that got me started," Rita said.
The family who made the decorations were from the St. Clairsville area and they began to expect Randy's return, looking for more items to add to the collection.
The ghost, turkey, Santa, Easter Bunny and Uncle Sam were all made by the same artist from the St. Clairsville area. Randy's sister made a snowman for the couple, and he added to the collection himself a couple years ago.
"We didn't have anything for Valentine's Day, so I took a couple sheets of plywood and cut out a heart," he said. "And I had to do that, because that's my wife's birthday," he added with a laugh.
It takes Randy about half an hour to set up most of the decorations on a wooden base.
He secures them with anchors in the ground and rubber straps that have enough give to adapt to the wind, even though he sometimes finds them "head over heels" after some particularly strong gusts come through.
Angie McAfee of Fleming works with Rita Shrider at the career center. She used to bring her son and stepdaughter to the Shriders' house to take their pictures next to the oversized decorations.
"They really liked them," McAfee said. "I kind of used them as a prop for the holidays."
McAfee marked holidays in her scrapbooks with the pictures and used them for Christmas cards as well.
As for plans to add to the collection of decorations, Randy waid there's a gap in the holiday rotation.
"I've often thought that we don't have anything for St. Patrick's Day," he said, "so that may be a project in a couple years."