Fairyland Christmas holiday home celebrates final season

‘Mr. Christmas’ has been decorating his home for 50+ years
The Fairyland Christmas display on Wistar Court has served as a beacon drawing in thousands to the spirit of Christmas for decades.
Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 6:39 PM EST
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Like millions of twinkling stars in the night sky, the Fairyland Christmas display on Wistar Court has served as a beacon drawing in thousands to the spirit of Christmas for decades.

But the true legacy of Fairyland runs longer than the over four miles of wires that have brought this display to life for more than half a century.

“How’s that for a Richmond tradition, right,” Frank Hudak said. “Well, actually, I started playing with lights when I was about 10 years old. I was infatuated with the light bulb.”

Hudak - or “Mr. Christmas” as he’s better known - says that infatuation served as his spark. He says ever since the 1970s, finding new reasons to make the season bright is what’s kept him going.

“I just let my imagination go wild. I look at things, I study them all year through. What can I do?” Hudak said. “It’s quite a trip. It’s very interesting. I love it. I just love meeting people.”

From the constant tinkering and repairing, to broadcasting the music for his display from his self-made radio station, Mr. Christmas has run this entire operation from the inside of his home.

“It’s a living display. This is something you can’t turn on, and walk away from every day. I’m out there because there are things that require maintenance,” Hudak said. “Last year was the 50th, and this year is 51. So I can, I can honestly say we did it for over 50 years.”

After all that time, Mr. Christmas is about ready to dim the lights.

“I’d love to do it for a couple of hundred years, but that’s not practical, not realistic,” Hudak said. “And hopefully, I’ll go out on top, and that’s really what I would like to do indefinitely.”

Hudak says even though he’ll be packing up the display at the end of the season, it isn’t a true goodbye. He says his next-door neighbor who also puts up a holiday display has agreed to take up the holiday tradition.

Hudak says the majority of his display will be donated to his neighbor, so he’ll continue to provide feedback and maintenance when he needs it.

“I hate to say, but, you know, age catches up with you, and I often say that you know, God will tell you when you’re done, when you’re ready to retire, and I’ve slowed down considerably. And on my last birthday, I was 80. So I figure, you know, he’s showing me things that it’s a good sign. I need to just take it easy.”

Hudak says he also will continue his charity efforts. For nearly 30 years he’s donated to the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls. Hudak says every dollar ever donated to his home has gone to the organization.

“It’s just grown and grown and grown,” Hudak said. “I’ve had different sponsors, the Fraternal Order of Police and Ace Electric and people like that who just all chipped in monumentally. Besides the visitors who come by and donate, it looks like we were going to be right at about $175,000, every penny of which is going to the children.

But even after the displays come down this season, Mr. Christmas only hopes the light he’s given to so many over the years never fades.

“All good things must come to an end. And that’s where you have to look at it and accept it,” Hudak said. “I want people to have good memories. I have. I’m working on the third generation. I’ve come in to see these lights. I want them to be able to remember that I take those memories with them.”