f r e q u e n t l y a s k e d
q u e s t i o n s
Photos by Mike Heberger
How long does it take to build?
Building the display is an unbelievable amount of work....but it's actually the easiest part of the whole project. I start 8-10 months early working on putting together a soundtrack and programming lights and special effects. The soundtrack and light programming take an endless amount of time. My goal is to have the music, lights and effects tell a story and provide a memorable experience for the viewers.
Most props are made from scratch well in advance. The masts, sails, rope ladders, cannons, Kraken, barrels, etc all must be done in advance and there are multiple steps involved for each one. Things that seem simple, actually aren't. For example, fog machines all need to be wired with relays, Cannons need to be wired with electric solenoids, etc.
The display gets put together over a 2-month period. Connecting the electronics takes a long time and it involves lots of testing and trials. In the past, there has been over 5000 feet of cabling run throughout the front yard. For me, July - October include early mornings, late nights, full weekends, and a severe lack of sleep.
All that is just a part of the process. Coordinating the season is an entire secondary job. I spend a long time working to make sure everything runs smoothly. For example, a lot of details need to be worked out with the Community Organizations, The Actors, Sheriffs, Food Vendors, Neighbors, Donation Websites, News Papers, Magazines, News Channels etc.
Build pictures are on often placed on social media throughout the season.
How much does all this cost?
A lot. I spend much of the year scrolling through FB marketplace and craigslist looking for cheap materials... such as rope, scrap lumber, old barnwood, PVC pipes etc. Most things are inexpensive... or even free through donations. The electronics and other supplies (fog machines, fog juice, fire blasters, fire fluid, rope….rope, and more rope, lights, cabling/extension cords, screws, hardware, paint, and any props I didn't make, etc) can be very pricey. I set money aside throughout the year to help cover the cost.
I need to give a special thank you my barn wood supplier who has donated a lot of wood for the display. My display has been assembled with wood that came from barns as old as 1893.
Jordan Gelser is a barn wood enthusiast and wood worker based out of Lima, NY. He has a unique business of repurposing the wood from old barns in our area and creating some amazing pieces.
Where do you store this thing?
The display is put up piece by piece, and board by board. Each year, I take the entire thing apart - right down to the last screw. I save everything. Most of the props are in stored in my basement, shed, garage, and garage attic. The wood is stored at an offsite property in a barn.
What do you do for a living?
I work full time as a co-owner/vibration analyst at 4X Diagnostics. We are a local, family business based out of Churchville, NY. We provide vibration testing and machinery-health testing and analysis services across the country. I build these Halloween displays because it's something I enjoy, as a hobby, and it's a chance to be creative and build things with my kids. It's also a great way to give back to the community through donation events.
What do your neighbors think of all this?
They love it! I've received lots of excitement and support for the display. I always kindly ask for everyone's patience during the season as we create quite a bit of noise and draw large crowds.
We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and a lot of requests for it to continue. So, you got it! I'm not sure when we will change themes. I'm also not sure how much longer this will continue.
That said - going forward I would love to find an indoor venue large enough to build the ship where it can stay permanently. An indoor area would provide protection from the weather, meaning more special effects and more details. In the off season, the ship could be used for special occasions or events with the pirate actors - such as birthday parties, plays - or other entertainment for children, book readings etc.