Looking for holiday fun: View these hand crafted holiday displays

Amarillo has several holiday lighting options for those celebrating the season to drive around and look at, but there are two sets of friends who take their Christmas decorations to the next level. 

Melinda Ritthaler and her husband, who live at 7407 Limestone Drive, hold a friendly competition with their neighbors across the street, Pat and Roland Brannen. 

Each couple spends hours creating, cutting, painting and decorating for the holiday season, and this year, their themes are the Grinch and the North Pole.

“We just like to make people happy for the holidays,” Melinda Ritthaler said. “People drive by and sometimes they (the Brannens) dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, and I dress up as the Grinch and we hand out candy canes and take pictures.”

Ritthaler said that they had been decorating for the holidays for years, and that this year’s theme inspiration was a request from her children. Each item that is on display in her yard was hand crafted from cutting the wood to doing all of the painting. In total, she estimates that she has spent a month’s worth of time in creating the pieces and displaying them, but to her, it’s all to spread the Christmas spirit.  

“Melinda is very creative, she does them by hand so she’ll go out and create a piece like, let’s say the Grinch, she will go cut it out, then hand paint it,” said Pat Brannen. “She’s very creative.”

To truly submerge those driving by into the theme, Ritthaler often dresses up as the Grinch and will do mischievous acts such as innocently throwing fake snowballs at cars and snapping candy canes before handing them out. 

“I’m not a very good aim so I don’t hit very many cars, but maybe that’s for the best,” Ritthaler said.

“We like putting smiles on people’s faces, especially because the past couple of years have been so strange. It’s just something to spread the fun,” she added.

Across the street at 7406 Limestone Drive are the Brannens.

The duo spent about 40 hours decorating and building their display, which includes five handcrafted reindeer, each measuring 8 feet tall, and a sleigh measuring 8 feet in length. Though the couple enjoys creating the decorations, they also both agree that it’s the people’s reactions that make it all worth it. 

“I love it, it’s all about the public, it’s all about the little kids,” Roland Brannen said. “It’s something that I didn’t have growing up that we try to give to the community and the grandkids.”

The couple will also add to the decorations and often dress up a Santa and Mrs. Claus to take photos with children and families.

“Whenever they see me dressed up like that and they see the display, their eyes all get big, they’re all excited. All the children get excited,” Roland Brannen said. 

This year, each yard has won an award within the Greenway Christmas light competition. The Ritthalers won Best in Show for their display and the Brannens won Santa’s Choice. 

Families can drive by and view the decorations at the two houses through Christmas.