Freeville, N.Y. — More than 50 pumpkins. 24 tombstones. 18 ghosts. 4 inflatable Draculas. 2 Snoopys.

Sound like a lot?

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Maybe. But as Barbara Rosevear informally ticks through the inventory of her annual front-yard Halloween display Thursday night, it quickly becomes clear that she is just getting started …

12 gravestones. 5 witches. 2 cauldrons. 1 scarecrow. The gargoyle on the roof. The pirate with the moving arm. A line of caution tape.


“And then there’s the organ player,” Rosevear said, “but he’s lost his head this year.”

The organ player, in headier days.
The organ player, in headier days.

Generations of immigrants knew they made it to America by the majestic sight of Statue of Liberty.

Ithaca and Tompkins County have their own Polaris: The Rosevears’ home, at 1751 Dryden Road.

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Pretty much anyone who has driven along Route 13 about 10 minutes Northeast of Ithaca has seen a Rosevears’ display.

“A lot of people tell me when they’re on their way home from Cortland that they use it as a landmark,” said Rosevear, who works for Cornell University Press.

“They’ll say, ‘I know I’m halfway home; I know I’m halfway home.’”

It may be easier to say what parts of the year Rosevear does not have a lights display in her front yard than which parts she does.

Christmas commands the biggest display. Halloween is second.

After that, there’s still massive decorations for Easter, July 4, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, the normal summer decorations …

“Like I said, I’m just nuts,” Rosevear said, “It’s become an obsession.”  

How does she do it?

Days off from work. The help of friends. Her husband, Michael Rosevear.

“Michael helped a little bit,” Barbara Rosevear said.

Michael Rosevear responds: “A bit? I worked eight hours!”

The Rosevears
The Rosevears

They joke, but Barbara Rosevear said there’s nothing casual about the hobby.

Setting up for this Halloween, for instance, it took her eight hours just to move the decorations from the basement to the garage. Not only does the display require an intricate wiring system, but Rosevear must also ensure that each decoration has rebar on it to prevent wind from carrying it away.

All told, she spent at least three 8-hour days getting Halloween alone prepared.

Rosevear said she has easily spent thousands of dollars on the “obsession.” Her electric bill is certainly higher than her neighbors’. (She’s not saying how much higher.)

She owns hundreds of trinkets and enough boxes of assorted lights to run stage production for a Broadway show. Attempts to get a rough estimate of how many decorations she owns are quickly scrapped. They must number in the thousands.

Her basement is like a fun-house maze:




Rosevear is originally from Scranton, Pa.

“When we were little our mom would take us out at night time and we’d see all the nice houses lit up and decorated,” Rosevear said.

“It was the thing to do around Christmastime, and I always loved it.”

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unnamed (1) IMG_1641 IMG_1642When Rosevear moved to Ithaca, she lived on Triphammer Road near the mall — and couldn’t put up a light display.

She and her (now ex-) husband moved to Freeville. One year, he bought her a light-up Santa Clause and reindeer.

“And each year it just kind of grew and grew and grew,” she said.

“It just takes a little bit longer and longer and longer every year, because each year I just find more and more stuff to put out there…”

“But I never thought it would get this big.”

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.