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North Las Vegas couple transforms home into winter wonderland

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas exploded at the Messer home.

The halls of the nearly 5,000-square-foot house in North Las Vegas are decked from floor to ceiling with scores of snowmen, dozens of dancing bears, loads of lights and wreaths and garlands, and an impressive tally of Tannenbaums — 70 or so in total.

There even are life-size versions of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who got nothin’ on Tom and Sherry Messer.

The retired couple for years has transformed the home they built together near Craig Road and Allen Lane into a veritable winter wonderland. They invite hundreds of friends, relatives and neighbors over each year to enjoy it while nibbling on cheese and crackers. The ritual is a neighborhood favorite.

"It just gives you a warm and fuzzy, neat feeling," said City Councilman Robert Eliason, who is a big fan. "It’s just awesome."

The centerpiece of the Messers’ considerable Christmas display is a sprawling miniature village that takes up much of the home’s 75-foot-long entry hall.

Arranged on platforms constructed by Tom, a retired general contractor, the snowy village has hundreds of tiny houses lit up for the holidays, figurines and accessories that together constitute the perfect holiday town.

Over here there’s a dance hall, sugar shack, ornament shop, church and fire station.

Over there, a bunch of miniature carolers and shepherds and tobogganers who fly down an icy slope only to be magically transported back to the top.

And across the way is a complete Christmas carnival with tiny tilt-o-whirl, spinning teacups and colliding bumper cars.

The display, which takes six weeks to set up, is kind of overwhelming. One wonders if people think the couple is a little nutty.

Sherry, a retired tax preparer, considers this while standing next to a bookcase crammed with hundreds of her thousands of Barbie dolls — another of her collections.

People appreciate all the effort the Messers go to just to brighten the holidays, Sherry said.

"Last year, when the economy was so bad, so many people said they weren’t really having a Christmas," she said. "It made their year just to come over and look at this."

Sherry, 67, culled her holiday collection over the past three decades — since she and Tom, 69, were married.

The couple met at Lake Tahoe, where Tom was Sherry’s mechanic. They lived in Chula Vista, Calif., where their Christmas displays were the talk of the town, before deciding to build a home in North Las Vegas in 2001.

It wasn’t long before they were back in full swing, holiday-wise.

"We have no kids, so I do Christmas for me," Sherry said.

The collection grew organically, piece by piece. The hundreds of holiday houses in Sherry’s collection cost $20 to $70 each.

Going all out for the holidays gives Sherry a sense of home inspired by her childhood. Raised by a single mother, her family wasn’t "exactly poor, but the only time we got presents was at Christmas," she said. "It takes me back to the good times."

Initially, Tom was "bah humbug" about all the fuss, but he "has really gotten into the Christmas thing over the years," Sherry said.

"I do anything I can to make it good for her," Tom said.

He wasn’t able to help much this year, as he’s recovering from a battle with lung cancer. But "nothing keeps him down for long," Sherry said.

The Christmas village also transports visitors back to their childhoods. Eliason, for example, "is worse than a little kid," Tom said.

The councilman crawls around the Messers’ home, checking out the holiday houses one by one. When he was a child, his mother set up similar but smaller displays under the family’s Christmas tree, Eliason said.

Several years ago, he too started collecting the houses and now has about 50.

"I decided to start the old family tradition back up at home," Eliason said.

Since then, his attitude toward the holiday has changed.

"I used to be grumpy this time of year," he said. "I wasn’t excited like everyone else. Now, I’m a whole new person."

At some point, a friend invited Eliason to check out Tom and Sherry’s place.

"You have to take it slow and really get a good look at it," he said.

The Messers also decorate the outside of their house to the point that strangers drive through the neighborhood to gawk.

The entire display adds about $100 to their monthly power bill through the holidays.

The rest of the year, all the decorations are crammed into a huge storage unit on the Messers’ lot. The entry hall is converted back to a magical garden full of trees, gazing balls and Sherry’s collection of fairy figurines.

"You gotta have sprites and fairies if you have a forest," she said.

Until then, hundreds of lucky friends and neighbors will enjoy the Messers’ over-the-top Christmas display.

But Tom and Sherry admit they’re not sure how their nearest neighbor feels about the whole thing.

It’s a church for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com.

 

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