It was 25 years ago when Pete Basala, of Hammond, first started spreading Christmas cheer in his neighborhood with a few strings of lights and some holiday decorations. And each year, he’s added and added and added. He makes Clark Griswold look like a lightweight.
Not only has Peteyville, 3033 Crane Place, grown in size, but the number of home-built items in his display has grown. This year he engineered his own merry-go-round, starting with some plans he found online and customizing it to fit what he had in mind. Teddy bears ride atop reindeer on the merry-go-round. It joins a home-built teeter-totter that is sporting some new, larger bears this year and a teddy bear gift box that opens. A greeting card crane that has been absent for several years has also returned. “It was one of the original things I made," Basala said.
While the number of inflatables has become a big draw of Peteyville, which now covers the front yard of the Basala home and four neighboring yards, Basala said they’re now steering away from the very tall ones, which are hard to manage when it gets windy. “We decided not to do any more that are 20-feet high. It’s too hard to take care of in the wind,” he said. He has, however, added a 20-foot snowman that is lying on his side relaxing. Two new 13-foot tall soldiers sit at the entrance and there’s a new 10-foot tall Snoopy and a 12-foot tall color-changing Christmas tree.
In the off-season he has also done a lot of work that he said you can’t see. “I did a lot of electrical work,” he said. “The archway is longer with 12,000 lights on the sidewalk archways.”
Another new feature this year is a board with face cutouts to pose for pictures that has been popular with visitors. Basala said next year he’d like to add a new board with photo cut outs and one that has low slots for young kids. As visitors view the decorations, music is piped in, including “Here Comes Suzy Snowflake,” “Hardrock, Coco and Joe” and a specially recorded song written about Peteyville.
The Basalas open Peteyville on Thanksgiving night and it runs through New Year’s Eve from 5 to 10 p.m., staying open until about midnight on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Basala and his wife, Tina, and son, Peter, host a holiday party at their home each year where toys are collected for Shriner’s Children’s Hospital and he spends days before hand baking dozens of cookies.
While others are wishing for a white Christmas, Basala said that lack of snow has made it much easier on him and makes the job of taking it down easier. “We’ve gotten lucky the last couple years, but there have been years we’ve gone out with an axe to cut the ice.”
Basala said that through the Peteyville Facebook page (www.facebook.com/peteyville.in), more visitors are coming and they are coming from farther away. He also said that it’s the adults who seem to enjoy it more than the kids. “It’s the same old Peteyville,” said Basala. “We always add things and move things around. People come every year and a lot of people come and say they’d come when they were kids.”