Unicorns, dinosaurs and bears, oh my! One Fox Point home is decked out as a creative winter wonderland
Wisconsin’s winter landscape can be drab and dreary. Holiday lights can change that, especially those in the front yard of Jack and Marguerite Cheeks on Lake Drive in the Milwaukee suburb Fox Point.
As day turns to dusk, and dusk turns to night, you may see Jack outside in his one-and-a-half acre front yard, curating a sparkling and whimsical scene -– with unexpected figures.
There are bears, unicorns, movie figurines, including Yoda, Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt, and others from Star Wars. And it’s not just the surroundings that are joyful. The delight Jack gets from curating the landscape is palpable.
As he turns on the lights on a 12-foot-tall skeleton with googly blinking eyes and a Santa hat, Jack marvels, “yeah, he’s beautiful, ain’t he?” Jack's wife Marguerite McGill Cheeks laughs and agrees that she never thought about this type of winter holiday decoration.
Marguerite is fully supportive of the unique display on her front lawn. Jack is constantly doing upkeep and updating lights and decorations. It’s a lot of work. He says about the giant skeleton, for instance, “He fell down. I had to glue him all back together again. I finally got him back together.”
The Santa skeleton is the least of it. There are 30-foot-high lights cascading down trees in purples, reds and golds, in addition to decorations like dinosaurs, polar bears and Snoopy in an airplane.
Everything flashes, drips and flickers with light.
“You know, I try to make it magical in a way,” says Jack.
A mom with four kids and a Bernese Mountain dog walk by. 6-year-old Madeline and 5-year-old Henry agree on their favorite character on the lawn: it’s Yoda.
It’s all part of their mom Alex Robbins’ strategy. “We love a destination. It just gets us out of the house, and it gives us like a goal to get somewhere,” Alex says. “And it's the time of night that I think my kids need it, because it’s before dinner but, it’s that in-between time — or ‘the witching hour’ I guess,” she chuckles.
Marguerite is quick to point out we’re living in a pandemic that has isolated children, "Because of the pandemic, [they] were kept out of school for quite a while, so that they were, you know, isolated from their classmates who their daily routines,” says Marguerite.
She found it very exciting to see Jack put out the decorations because she says the kids “go ballistic.”
“And the grandparents and parents are so happy that they could put kids in a car and come and see something that would lift their spirits during this time,” Marguerite explains.
In addition to the pandemic isolating us, people in the suburbs tend to be in their own bubbles.
That’s one reason Jack, who’s a disabled veteran, has holiday-scapes up year-round: Halloween, the Fourth of July, Easter. And people have noticed.
"I've been invited to houses all around here, you know, come to my house, Thanksgiving dinners. People gave me tickets to plays to go see you know, 'cuz I'm always in my yard,” he details.
And lights are sort of in Jack’s DNA. “Well, I love the lights. I'm from Brooklyn, I'm from New York, I love lights,” he notes. “And I look out there and I enjoy myself. People tell me how much they enjoy it. But I do it for me.”
Marguerite is also a city girl, hailing from Chicago. So for the two of them, the light installation grew out of a pretty practical reason when they were newbies to the suburbs.
"At first I was doing it because I couldn't find the house when I drove by,” Jack says. “I said we need to put some lights up. And it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. Now, we can see the house all the time.”
The house is decorated up to the chimney. Way off in the distance, almost at the tips of the trees, there’s a circle lit up with blue lights and two doves. It says “peace on earth.”
“It was given to me,” says Jack. “Somebody left it in my yard for Christmas last year. I guess this goes with the yard.”
Jack and Marguerite say that connecting with strangers, spreading joy, is what it’s all about. “It’s about the individual who walks by who I never meet who feels good about seeing something they don't have to do themselves to enjoy. Just being there for that moment,” sums up Jack.
The lights are on every night 5:00 to 10:00 through New Year’s Day. Then Jack will start pulling out the giant hearts for Valentine’s Day.