Abbagayle Harper, 3, gives the inflatable penguin in front of Mary Ellen Price's house a hug. Price, who runs a day-care center out of her home, says the children enjoy seeing the air-filled characters when they visit each day.
Photo by Vicky Eckenrode
Taking a cue from car dealerships everywhere, homeowners are discovering the hottest new thing to spotlight their Christmas cheer comes in an inflatable balloon.
Puffy and oversized Santas, polar bears and even Grinches are blowing up the Christmas decorations market.
The air-filled lawn ornaments were available last year, but local store managers say the number of characters expanded this season and people quickly snatched them off the shelves.
"We've sold all of ours," said Graham Nichols, assistant manager of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans, adding that only a display model remains in the store. "We had them up to the last day or so."
At the Columbia Road Eckerd Drugs in Martinez, the holiday season started with a selection of inflatable Santa, Rudolph, Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse. The 8-foot-tall characters often come with their own air pump and internal light.
June Foley, the manager of the Eckerd's, said the prices started at $40 on sale and went up to $100 and $150.
Now, the store is out of the inflatables, she said. Not even the 12-foot Santas are left.
"We have sold out of all of them," Foley said. "We have one Frosty the Snowman left on display."
Mary Ellen Price stands next to the inflatable Santa in the yard of her Cokesbury Court house. The Santa is one of several air-filled characters Price puts on display for the holidays.
Photo by Vicky Eckenrode
Christmas is the prime holiday for dressing up homes, and the market has seen a number of trends hit the decorating populace.
There were the bubble lights in the 1940s and 1950s with liquid bases that lit up and bubbled. Large-bulb lights, musical lights, icicle lights have all had their followings.
Now, many people make their homes all aglow with nylon, collapsible statues.
In this area, Mary Ellen Price can be considered a pioneering trend-setter for her neighbors.
The Martinez resident began ordering inflatable holiday decorations from catalogs more than a year ago.
This year, a Santa, a snowman and a penguin grace the front yard of her home on Cokesbury Court.
Price, who runs a day-care center out of her house, said the children often run up and hug the inflated characters when their parents drop them off in the morning.
But Price doesn't reserve the festive decorations for just Christmas.
In her inflatable arsenal is a rabbit for Easter, a pumpkin for Halloween and a turkey for Thanksgiving.
She's heard a rumor that there are now inflatable hearts available for Valentine's Day, which will be her next buy.
"I wish they'd make leprechauns," she said. "Then I think we've got it all covered."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.