Falcon resident Charles McKnight has flipped the script on the classic holiday story of the Grinch. In McKnight’s version, the furry green creature skips stealing Christmas; and, instead makes the season brighter by giving back and welcoming neighbors to “Whoville” to enjoy Grinch-themed decor and treats and take photos with the Grinch.
“I’m basically just a big kid who loves Christmas. Christmas is my favorite holiday,” McKnight said. And a drive past his house during the holiday season proves it.
McKnight’s love of Christmas is inspired by his late grandfather, also named Charles.
His grandfather pulled out all the stops for his annual Christmas decor, and won awards for his displays at his home in Texas. McKnight vividly remembers visiting his grandfather’s house as a child and being mesmerized by the decorations, among them a cheesy ‘70s Santa.
“I just loved it. Those were some of my happiest memories — Christmas time with my grandparents,” McKnight said. “Decorating the house is something I get from my grandfather. I do it now because it keeps his memory and his spirit alive.”
When McKnight moved to Falcon in 2019, his first elaborate Christmas display at his home followed a “Griswold theme” (referring to the Christmas comedy movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”). Highlights of the display included dummy dolls’ hanging lights and a snow globe, with a projector that played the movie inside. “I’m what you would call ‘Clark Griswold’ at Christmas time,” McKnight said.
The following year, he entirely revamped his decor and embraced a new theme with inspiration from the movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” starring Jim Carrey.
“It was on a whim that I went out and bought it all one year and then I’ve just added to it each year so it’s not the same,” he said.
Getting his Christmas display set up is a labor of love, and takes patience and dedication considering Falcon’s windy weather. It takes McKnight between five to seven days to get the display set up how he likes it, then regular maintenance to keep up with weather damage. At the time of his interview with The New Falcon Herald in early November, he was already dragging decor out of storage and planning to set up around Thanksgiving.
After Christmas 2020 (the first year with his new Grinch decorations), McKnight felt something was still missing: the live Grinch himself.
So, in 2021, McKnight took on the role of the Grinch — fuzzy suit and all — and turned his Whoville display into a free, interactive experience where he invited the community to meet the Grinch and take photos at a picture station with a backdrop, bench and Grinch decor, including an inflatable Cindy Lou Who.
“I decorated the whole outside of the house all Grinch-themed and took a wild leap to put myself out there and see if people would want pictures with the Grinch. And now here we are going on the third year,” McKnight said.
The popularity of the events continues to shock McKnight. In 2021, when he spontaneously made the first post in a neighborhood Facebook group to announce the scheduled meet-and-greet photo event, he never could have imagined the wild success it would become.
“I was definitely surprised by the turnout the first year. I thought maybe 10 or so people would show up,” McKnight said.
His expectations were exceeded tenfold, with more than 100 visitors.
Due to demand, he scheduled two meet-and-greet Grinch events the following year in 2022.
“It was more than triple the amount of people (compared to 2021). I was overwhelmed. I never thought that many people would show up for it,”McKnight said.
More than 300 people attended McKnight’s Grinch events last year.
“It brought families from near and far and all walks of life,” he said. “I got infants, mothers expecting, people in their 50s and 60s wanting to sit with the Grinch. Even big kids, grumpy kids, dads that were scratching their heads like, ‘Why am I here?’ and dads that were eating it up.”
People and families with special needs find the Grinch event fun and engaging.
“I get a lot of kids with special needs who like to come because it is more of a quiet and inviting environment versus going to the mall where it’s loud and chaotic,” McKnight said.
He said he is particularly touched by these visitors because one of his main inspirations for hosting the events is a neighbor child with autism.
“My little neighbor comes across the street, and I see this boy’s face light up and he’s just full of life when he sees the Grinch. It’s his favorite. He loves the Grinch, so I’m doing it for him, as well,” McKnight said.
The rest of McKnight’s neighbors are invested in the tradition, too, and it’s a regular conversation starter on his street.
“I had people at Halloween already saying, ‘Are you doing the Grinch this year? We want to come by!’” he said.
McKnight also gets a kick out of a group of siblings on his street that constantly ring his doorbell during the holidays to ask him to turn on his animated Grinch decoration, and his elderly neighbor asks questions about his decorations during his daily walk to the mailbox.
“My favorite part is just putting smiles on people’s faces,” he said. He loves that it’s a reason for people to come together and interact. “That’s what Christmas is for,” he said.
This year, McKnight expects to host his events during the first week or two of December at his home in Meridian Ranch near Falcon High School. Specific details such as dates, times and the address for this year’s Grinch photo event can be found on the Meridian Ranch Facebook group.
It takes Charles McKnight between five to seven
days to get the display set up how he likes it, then
regular maintenance to keep up with weather damage.