Inflating the level of holiday cheer in Brecksville

by Emily Canning-Dean

What started out as a bet between two buddies has turned into an elaborate tradition for a Brecksville family and a holiday treat for the community.

Last year was Duane Steelman’s first Christmas in Brecksville and he surprised his neighbors with his over-the-top display of lights and inflatables at his home at 9468 Greystone Parkway.

“Last year I went to my neighbors and said ‘I like to decorate for the holidays’ and they said OK,” Steelman said. “They saw me outside decorating and asked if I was ever going to stop.”

But the neighbors seemed to enjoy the end result.

“When I turned everything on after Thanksgiving the entire neighborhood came out for it,” he said. “I think I had about 70 people there.”

Steelman said this year’s display dwarfs even last year’s decorations with a total of 48 inflatables and more than 20,000 lights.

While this is Steelman’s second year to wow his Brecksville neighbors, he said the tradition started several years ago when he was living in Seven Hills.

“Several years ago, I went out to have a drink with one of my old neighbors,” he said. “He challenged me to see which one of us could build a better Christmas display. I came home and told my wife and she told me I could do whatever I wanted. He went home and told his wife and she told him no.”

But even with his friend forfeiting the challenge, Steelman went ahead with his plans.

“I went out and built a huge display and it just kept getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

Steelman said he adds new inflatables, features and decorations every year. While he has all the inflatables in his possession set up, he is expecting a few more to be delivered soon so the display will have some new additions later in the season.

“I usually sit in the family room in the evenings and it’s nice to look out the window and see people stop to look,” he said. “I remember as a kid, I would go out and look at Christmas lights all of the time and I wanted to be one of the people who provides that for others.”

Visitors who stop by to take a peek at the display should also consider rolling down their car windows because, for the first time, Steelman has set his display to music.

“It’s all set on a timer so the music goes from 5:30-9:30 p.m.,” he said. “I might set it to go for six hours on the weekends when I’m home.”

Steelman said he hopes to continue making the display bigger each year. Currently, the display takes about three weeks to set up and he takes the entire week of Thanksgiving off work to make sure everything is ready in time for the season. Steelman said he also looks forward to help from his 8-year-old son, Dustin, who says he enjoys setting up the display with his dad.

“My favorite inflatable is the dinosaur,” Dustin said. ∞

Duane Steelman’s Christmas display includes 48 inflatables and at least 20,000 lights.

Duane and Dustin Steelman pose
with Dustin’s favorite inflatable. Photos by Emily Canning-Dean.

On our cover (photo): The Christmas display at 9468 Greystone Parkway, which features more than 40 inflatable holiday characters and 20,000 lights, is the work of Duane Steelman. The display will be up and illuminated nightly through Jan. 1. Photo by Emily Canning-Dean.