After 30+ years, Halloween yard display goes dark in St. Paul Park
ST. PAUL PARK — A neighborhood Halloween attraction signed off Oct. 31 after more than 30 years.
The Nelson family's tricked-out yard display in St. Paul Park attracted generations of costumed kids with its rows of tombstones, hanging skeletons and gallery of glowing jack o' lanterns. Family members would dress up as witches and vampires.
"I've never been at my own home for 33 years to pass out candy," said Dawn Walker of Hastings. "'Cause I'm the head witch here."
The home belongs to her mother, Sally Nelson. Nelson's husband, Russell, started the display. He loved All-Hallows, his daughter said.
Halloween afternoon, Walker stood in the front yard, adjusting tombstones, checking extension cords and making sure the fog machine inside a witch's cauldron was functioning properly.
She was awaiting the delivery of a coffin.
"My dad made it 30 years ago out of panelling," she said. "It's falling apart, but it will make it one more year."
Russell Nelson, would dress as Dracula and lie in the coffin for hours on Halloween night, rising occasionally to give trick-or-treaters a scare.
Nelson died 13 years ago, so now it's just a skeleton crew consisting of Walker, her sister Chris Carlson and niece, Sarah Hynes of Woodbury.
"It's just three women out here, we're talking 100 extension cords," Walker said. "I'm just tired."
They put their father's photo in the coffin. Some kids toss in candy as a tribute, she said.
As darkness fell and the yard took on an eerie glow, Walker and Hynes had already transformed themselves into witches. Neighbor Bill Farone, who is in his 80s, donned green greasepaint to play Frankenstein one last time.
"Back in the day, we used to have 60 some pumpkins out here all carved and lit up," she said.
They also used to light up the roof. The home, which is illuminated days before the big night, attracts more than 400 visitors a year, Walker said.