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Holiday shines bright, inside and out, for Ross family

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Brandon Reilly, 31, of Ross Township, stands with a 25-foot-tall snowman he purchased at Garden Ridge in Robinson Township in 2012.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
More than 3,000 lights decorate the home of Brandon and Karen Reilly's Brethauer Avenue home in Ross Township in December 2013.
A Disney village is part of the indoor decorations in Brandon and Karen Reilly's Brethauer Avenue home in Ross Township in December 2013.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
The lights on Brandon and Karen Reilly's Brethauer Avenue home in Ross Township in December 2013 can be seen from below on McKnight Road.

With more than 3,000 lights outside his home and hundreds more inside, Ross Township resident Brandon Reilly is well on his way to solidifying his status as the neighborhood Clark Griswold.

Drivers along McKnight Road might recognize his Brethauer Avenue home above them — complete with a 1,600-light custom-built tree, flashing train and a rooftop “Reindeer crossing” sign, things Griswold, of “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation,” would appreciate.

Missing from his display this year is a 25-foot inflatable snowman.

“It actually goes above the top of the peak of my house,” Reilly, 31, said. “It's pretty impressive.”

The snowman was punctured in a windstorm and will not appear as part of Reilly's outdoor Christmas spectacle this season. Reilly said he hopes a similarly sized inflatable will return next year; a smaller inflatable snowman is out front this year.

But that didn't dampen Reilly's holiday spirit or outdoor show, as lighted plastic items such as a classic Santa face and Nativity scene join a moving projection display and plenty of lights along the front and sides of his home.

Part of Reilly's self-proclaimed “Christmas obsession” includes decking nearly every nook and cranny inside of the home he shares with his wife, Karen Reilly.

The home is decked with subtle and not-so-subtle decorations in bathrooms, bedrooms, the entryway, kitchen and dining areas, to the focal point of the living room with an 8-foot-by-12-foot platform filled with a miniature Disney village and live tree.

“My wife screams and yells that we don't have any room for this,” Brandon Reilly said with a laugh.

“She makes fun of me because I have a posterboard map” detailing where each piece in the Disney village belongs. More than 20 Disney-themed village pieces are part of his growing collection, including a castle and monorail.

His collection began about 12 years ago he said.

Brandon Reilly begins decorating in mid-October.

“I tend to hide out when all of the boxes come out of the attic,” Karen Reilly said. “I help decorate the tree, but he's so particular about his houses.

“I help with the little things that go around the house.”

A decorated home at Christmas was a familiar sight for Karen Reilly, she said.

“My dad always would put Christmas lights outside,” she said. “We always had a big tree, too.”

The couple realized the similarities in Christmas traditions the first holiday they spent together.

“It's funny because some people are very particular with how they decorate their trees — matching ornaments, lights,” she said. “Our first Christmas together, Brandon and I both realized we did the same kind of trees growing up, so it has all of our fun ornaments and all of our ornaments from growing up.”

For Brandon Reilly, Christmas is about those traditions and the buildup of the season with family and friends.

“The holidays are a big deal,” he said. “Christmas is always more about the anticipation and what it means — family and togetherness. So going all out and spending a month and a half planning and decorating helps to build that anticipation and excitement.

“I love when I see kids in the neighborhood stare in front of the house. It takes me back to when I was little and would look at lights.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or

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