On New Year’s Day, when Neil and Michelle Salmond turn off the power for their hugely popular Tuxedo Christmas lights display, it will be for the last time.
The famous light and decoration setup, with inflatables over 30 feet high, has been a Saanich institution for 28 years. It starts again on Friday (Dec. 8), and will run nightly from 5:30 to 11 p.m. through Jan. 1 at 4091 Tuxedo Dr.
Then it’s lights out.
“It’s going to be our last year, this has been a pretty big thing for us,” said Neil Salmond. “I’ve had a few injuries, an MCL tear this year, and I can’t go up the ladder anymore.”
The display features hundreds of props, a 1956 firetruck, a series of 25-foot inflatables, animatronic animals, and boasts many recognizable characters from Christmas and pop culture in general.
For fans who make the annual trek to Tuxedo, coming from as far as the Cowichan Valley, there is hope the display will continue. The Salmonds hope to move the collection on to a taker, and are open to offers.
It’s hard to put a price on the collection, but Salmond said it doesn’t matter, it’s going to be a good deal.
The pack of reindeer flying across the Salmonds’ front yard came to them used, but cost $22,000 at one point. The bigger inflatables (about 25 feet tall) all cost well into the thousands, and there’s several of them – an elf, snowman, nutcracker, candle, etc.
“It’s too much to figure out,” Salmond said. “We’re not trying to get a ton of money for it. We would like to move it, we have so much we can’t even put it all up.”
This week Western One rentals lent a 45-foot power lift to aid the Salmonds in their set up, as they do every year.
“We’re very thankful to Western One, and to all the community,” Salmond said. “It’s been fun, some people have been coming by so long, a third generation of children are coming now. We’ve been glad to do it for the community.”
It started when the Salmond children were young. Neil has been involved in stage sets and had the rights to distribute giant inflatables for the South Island, which led him to acquire inflatable Christmas characters for the display. Salmond calls Michelle the creative source in all of it.
“I have a corny sense of humour, so does my wife, it will be sad for us,” Salmond said. “We’re energized [to do it once more] but sad at the same time, [years of] nice thoughts and people dropping cards and gifts off has been quite nice.”
The collection fills both the Salmonds’ garage and part of his company warehouse.
Through the years there’s been some ups and downs. Oak branches have fallen on the display, while big windstorms have also made a mess of it. It’s hard to estimate but Salmond figures 15,000 to 25,000 people come by annually to see the display.
“I don’t actually count the visitors but it’s two weeks solid of tires rolling by,” Salmond said.
“I feel so sad about the whole thing. Everyone says I’ve been saying this for years, that it would be the last year and no one believed me, but this is the last year.”