The Ashland Beacon
Roughly 40 years ago, JoAnn Romer's two sisters bought her a huge inflatable snowman while in a trip to the Smoky Mountains. That snowman was the beginning of a Christmas legacy for her husband, Francis. The lights and decorations that he now sets up every year have become one of the biggest in Boyd County.
Francis Romer was born in Kansas and always loved to celebrate Christmas. He “married a girl from Mt. Sterling” and he decorated their home there, but never to this extent. He said that he would go out and “cut a branch off of a tree and decorate it for the house.”
When the couple moved to Scott's Hill nearly 40 years ago, Romer began building his display. He started with the snowman from his two sisters-in-law. Then each
year after Christmas, he would hit the clearance section of the stores to buy more items for the following year while it was 50 to 75 percent off. He explained that he would usually pick up three or four pieces, but last year, he picked up about 10 smaller pieces.
Romer is now 86 years old and shared that he does not know “whether I'll be able to do it much more.” He does all of the decorating work himself. It takes him a little over a month to get all of the inflatables set up and anchored and all of the lights strung up around the house and the tree in his front yard. The snowman that started it all holds a special place of honor right at the end of his driveway to greet visitors as they come.
Romer's favorite display in his yard is his Nativity scene. He emphasized that without the birth of Jesus, “there would be no Christmas.” Although he would love to give the nativity a place of honor in the front yard, he keeps it in the yard where it can be safely anchored down so nothing blows away in the wind. A couple of weeks before Christmas, wind gusts of 50 miles an hour came through after he already had the lights strung around the tree in the front yard. Romer must have anchored them well, as there was little damage done.
The display has gotten so large that it has finally outgrown the couple's yard. Romer solved this problem by starting to spread decorations over into his neighbor's yard. “She don't care,” Romer said of his moving several inflatables onto the neighbor’s lawn.
Some of the things that can be seen in the Romer's Christmas display are Mickey Mouse, as well as Santa driving a police car while his partner, Officer Penguin, aims the radar gun. There are plenty of reindeer, snowmen, and penguins, along with a cat wearing a Santa hat and an inflatable dachshund carrying her Christmas puppies. There's even an angry Santa snarling at a “student driver” elf who has ran over a reindeer with Santa's sleigh.
The Romer’s love for people to come out and see the lights. Francis even creates a walking path out of Christmas lights all around his yard so that visitors can see everything. He stands in the driveway to say hello and answer any questions that anyone may have. He's always happy to take a photograph with his visitors too. He likes to see the cars drive by and point out the things that people walking through the yard might have missed. Romer says that people “will be looking at eye level” and might miss something set up high like a mouse popping up out of a snowman's hat. JoAnn Romer stands on the front porch in between the inflatable candy canes and thanks everyone for coming out.”
The Romer house is located at 9023 Scotts Hill Drive in Catlettsburg. It's visible to anyone coming to visit as soon as they get to the top of the hill on Weaver Drive. He leaves his light display on every evening through New Year's Day until 10 p.m. with the exception of Christmas Day. On Christmas, the lights always stay on all night.
What does Mrs. Romer have to say about the huge display that started with her sister's snowman 40 years ago? “I like it. I don't help him do it, but I like it and I'm glad everyone comes out to see it.”