On Monday, December 14, Santa and his elves cruised around town, judging this year’s entries in the City of Gulfport’s Holiday Decorating Contest.
Santa and crew decided on two winners: one “General Theme,” and one “Commercial Theme.” This reporter decided to go see what all the fuss was about.
Driving up to Bill and Betty Drexler’s home at 5314 10 th Ave. S, I thought I was in the wrong place. The outside of the house had minimalist decoration, with sparse lighting along the roof and lights projecting on the wall.
I thought, “This can’t be right.”
I ran into Betty as I walked up their driveway and we got to talking. Apparently, the real design was out of sight.
Betty hollered to Bill through their front door: “The Gabber wants to take your photo.”
I didn’t see what happened next, but I heard it.
As Bill clamored out of his recliner and jumped to his feet, I heard him yell, “I’ve got to get my hat.”
The next thing I know, I’m standing in the Drexler’s garage, in front of one of the most elaborate miniature train models I’ve ever seen, with Bill rocking back and forth on the soles of his house slippers like a kid on Christmas morning.
This display is something to behold: four tiers of little mechanical gadgets, rolling around, lighting up, and making all of the holiday noises.
Every year Bill creates two different train displays – one for the summer and one for the holidays. The design and set up takes Bill about a month. He has to take every figurine and model out of their boxes, dust them off and get them moving in all the right places.
In his holiday display, Bill has one Hoyt Field, two food shops, three moving trains, four trolley carts and five blue latrines. (Actually, he has way more than that, but I wanted you to sing that in tune of the “12 Days of Christmas,” like I did.)
Congratulations to Bill and Betty Drexler!
For the seventh year in a row, Smokin’ J’s BBQ won the award for best Commercial Theme.
“I think everyone needs a little joy in life, especially this year,” said John Riesebeck, owner and operator of Smokin’ J’s BBQ on Gulfport Boulevard.
“We try to add at least two, or more, new items each year. We lose some, but we look forward to shopping to replacing them,” said Riesebeck of his massive holiday display, featuring scores of lights and inflatable characters. “Christmas is [co-owner] Lisa’s favorite holiday – her birthday is the 21st – so I enjoy getting the place all decked out and putting a smile on her face. The kids and adults seem to enjoy it as well. Watching people take pictures, bringing their kids by – and my grandkids look forward to coming over and helping turn them on everyday.”
Riesebeck said he wished more businesses decorated for the holidays.
“Yes, it’s extra work,” he said, “but the finished product itself is so rewarding.”
For a little holiday cheer, check out the winners, and the participants below.
5825 Tangerine Ave. S.
5406 8th Ave. S.
5317 Tangerine Ave S.
5321 Tangerine Ave. S.
2666 45th St. S.
2625 Quincy St. S.
5214 27th Ave. S.