A hundred hours and way more light bulbs go into this amazing light display that the whole family will love. 

2020 has been a year, to say the least. Concern, confusion, coronavirus—it’s been a hard time for us all worldwide. But one thing I can say for sure is that I’ve seen so many amazing community members step up to help where they can and make this time a little more normal.

As the holiday season approaches more and more people are really going above and beyond to decorate their homes and make the world just a little merrier and bright. I was lucky enough to speak with one of these holiday hero families, the Strickers, also known as "The Griswolds of Centennial," who have been going all out for the season for over a decade to bring joy to all ages. From fun Whoville designs to Santa giving an amazing telling of the wonderful “Night Before Christmas” tale, it’s basically everything that people of all ages need, and we’ve never needed it more than this year.

Join me in meeting Joe Stricker, holiday decorator extraordinaire, to learn why his family goes all out for the community every season.

stricker family
The family behind the fun! Courtesy of Stricker's Winter Wonderland. 

How did you get started decorating to this scale? It’s amazing!

We have been lighting up the neighborhood for 11 years now. I would say the first two years, we decorated at a normal level of any homeowner who wanted to spread holiday cheer. Then back in 2012, we decided to go big ... well, what we thought was "big" back then. As we saw how much joy this brought families and their loved ones, we have grown year over year to where we are now. We are now considered "The Griswolds of Centennial" and people come from all over the state to see our displays.

Growing up, the holidays were always a big deal. When we moved to the neighborhood back in 2008, it was an older neighborhood. We were the young couple starting their family while everyone else was older, retired grandparents and or great-grandparents. We sparked life back into the neighborhood. In the last 10 years, we have seen the turnover in the neighborhood and a lot of young new families moving in. It has been fun to watch the neighborhood light up, little by little. 

This must take some serious set-up time?

This year alone, we had over 100 hours in building our Winter Wonderland display. That’s not including setup and tear down of Halloween. My family is amazing and very supportive in my holiday decorating endeavors. It is a team effort to make it all happen. My wife might not be out helping me decorate, but she is running the homestead and taking care of the children while I am out wrapping trees and getting things set up. She definitely has the harder job. As for the kiddos, they help out in spurts. As they have gotten older, they have shown more and more interest.

I noticed your neighborhood seems to have rallied around your display, as well as put up some pretty fun lights themselves?

We could not do this without our amazing neighbors' support and approval. They are so great about everything from the noise, the lights, and the car/foot traffic from thousands of guests visiting from October 1 through New Year’s Day. We live in a pretty amazing community of people who have embraced my holiday crazy and welcome it with open arms. 

stricker drone footage
Aerial view, courtesy of Stricker's Winter Wonderland

You mention October 1. Does that mean we can also visit a fun Halloween display at your house?

Yes, Halloween has gotten out of hand, as well. When we moved into the neighborhood back in 2008, we were so excited about Halloween. We live a block away from the elementary school, and I was certain we were going to get bombarded with trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. Unfortunately, we did not get one that year.

So like the classic movie, Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.” Like the Christmas display, I started off small with some strobe lights in the trees, and then it blew up. We now have thousands of guests throughout the month of October. On the night of Halloween, hundreds of families fill the street to check out our display from all over the city, not just our neighborhood. It’s quite the production with movies, lights, fog, animatronics, music, and fun for all ages.

The big question: What drives you to put on these displays every year?

I feel like The Stricker’s Winter Wonderland spreads so much joy throughout the state, especially during these awful times of this pandemic. Thousands of people have already been safely driving by to view the display to get some sort of holiday cheer and normalcy during these trying times. Much more than years past, this early in the season. With statewide shutdowns and restrictions, there is not much to do to get in the holiday spirit. Colorado has always been big on large displays and spreading holiday cheer stemming back as early as the ‘50s with the tradition of leaving your holiday light on through the end of the stock show, but this year will top any previous year because now, more than any other time, families need to feel some sort of joy in their heart after a rough year.

So load up your loved ones in the car with some homemade hot chocolate and fresh-baked cookies and find your local holiday displays. It really does bring out the child in everyone. I have always said it is easy to make a child smile, but when you can make a grown adult smile with the weight of the world on their shoulders and allow them to forget about real-life problems for just one minute, it makes every second invested in building our displays worth it.

You can visit the Stricker holiday display at The Stricker’s Winter Wonderland 6636 S. Lafayette, Centennial, 80121. It runs from sundown to 10 p.m. every evening through New Year’s Day. Don’t miss this one—it’s pure joy.