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Massena men share Halloween spirit, want others to do the same

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MASSENA - The Halloween spirit is out in full force at John Roder’s home at 8 Isabel St. and Justin Blanchard’s home at 38 Churchill Ave. in Massena, where you’ll be greeted by all kinds of zombies and ghosts and ghoulies - including Earl - along with graveyards with headstones sticking out of the ground.

If you listen closely, you’ll even hear some sound effects from speakers filling the air to help get you into the spirit.

Throw in some smoke and the fun’s just getting started. “We do it for fun. It kind of puts a little bit of life into the town for a couple of weeks,” Mr. Blanchard said.

But, the two Massena men say, there’s not enough of that spirit in Massena, and they want to encourage others to create Halloween yard displays that rival those found during the Christmas season.

“We do a lot of Halloween decorations. It is a nice holiday, and kids actually enjoy it,” according to Mr. Roder, aka Wingwong Woo. “Not many people do it in Massena anymore. I think we’re the only two that really go out. Our houses are highly decorated.”

“Both of us put a lot of time and effort into decorating our homes during the holidays for the simple reason the public loves it,” Mr. Blanchard said.

Mr. Roder said he’s been decorating his home for about three years, while Mr. Blanchard said his Halloween decorations started going up about five years ago.

“I started out just for fun, to get in the festive spirit, and I noticed people coming by and making comments,” Mr. Roder said.

“It means a lot when people drive by and take pictures, or simply say, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’” Mr. Blanchard said.

Like some who start decorating for Christmas even before Thanksgiving arrives, Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Roder said they start early and take their time to make sure they have the best display possible for the public to enjoy. Lights are strategically placed to highlight the stars of the show - the creatures of the night who, for a few weeks, call the yards their home.

“It’s pretty scary, but it looks pretty nice,” said Mr. Blanchard who, as of Wednesday night, still wasn’t done with his decorating at “The Gates of Churchill.”

“It’s great when you get four, five or six kids just to stare at it,” he said.

Mr. Blanchard said he started decorating two weeks ago, and it’s a two- to three-week setup to get everything, including the fences, tombstones and creatures into place.

“I started in September,” Mr. Roder said.

Many of Mr. Blanchard’s decorations are hand-made from scratch using building materials, he said. Earl’s arms, for instance, are made from PVC piping.

“There are a few things you can buy,” he said.

The men don’t just throw things hodgepodge on their front lawns. They’re carefully planned and placed. Mr. Blanchard said he looks at his lawn, maps it out and starts figuring out where every piece will sit.

“I have a paper of the front of the house. You have to plan it,” he said. “My daughter helped this year. She’s 8 now.

“My nephews come over and help,” Mr. Roder said.

Mr. Roder and Mr. Blanchard said they hope people enjoy their displays, and they hope others will do the same and welcome the spirit of Halloween back into the community at a time when more residents are choosing to leave their lights off and their doors closed on Oct. 31.

“People are sitting in their house with their lights off. They don’t want to participate,” Mr. Blanchard said, recalling that as a child they used to see an average of 100 trick-or-treaters that night.

“I remember my mom had to buy big bags of candy,” Mr. Roder said.

Once Halloween is over, the men say they’ll turn their attention to Christmas, and they plan to be just as decorative.

“I’m like Clark Griswold,” Mr. Blanchard said.

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