PARMA, Ohio (AP) — A two-story, “Star Wars”-inspired Halloween yard display in Ohio is enticing kids to get toy lightsabers and attracting hundreds of visitors from across the state.
Elevator mechanic Nick Meyer, 39, spent about $1,500 and 10 hours a weekend for half a year to build a replica of the four-legged All Terrain Armored Transport, or AT-AT walker. He built it with his carpenter friend Anthony Paroda, and it’s been such a success that spectators are donating money for them to build another display next year.
At 19 feet, the replica is nearly as tall as Meyer’s home in Parma, a Cleveland suburb. The cockpit of the AT-AT walker is outfitted with lights that glow red at night, and a mannequin fashioned to resemble a “Star Wars” Stormtrooper soldier stands guard in front.
Meyer said he built it with plywood, hard foam and plastic barrels and based the design off a toy he bought online.
“We’re both pretty crafty, but it’s not rocket science,” Meyer said. “You just gotta be willing to do it.”
Local media attention catapulted the display into fame, drawing droves of visitors from dawn to dusk. At least three dozen spectators drove by to gawk and take selfies one Wednesday afternoon. Among them was Nicole Drake, 26, who was on her way home from work when the replica caught her eye.
“I just had to stop by,” Drake said. “I was amazed. It’s actually the size of their house.”
Meyer said he has built attention-grabbing Halloween displays for six years running, from an Addams Family mausoleum to the stern of a pirate ship jutting out from his front porch. He tears them down in November and drinks beers with a friend when dreaming up the next year’s display.
Meyer and his wife, Becky, say Halloween is their favorite holiday.
“The creepiness, the decorating, being able to dress up and pretend to be a kid still — it keeps me young,” Nick Meyer said.
“We like to do it up big if we can,” his wife said. “I just so happened to find a husband that loves it too.”
The Meyers bonded over a mutual love of horror movies, and their Halloween bash is their biggest family gathering of the year. Even during Christmas, they have an all-black tree decorated with bats and jack-o’-lanterns instead of a traditional tinsel-topped tree.
The Meyers say they’re bigger fans of Halloween than “Star Wars.” Still, they’ll be dressing the part this year: Nick Meyer will dress as Princess Leia, while Becky Meyer will don a Darth Vader costume. It’s inspired their next-door neighbor Brianna Johnson, 8, to start swinging her toy lightsaber near the AT-AT walker replica after school.
“I wish I could build this,” Brianna said. “‘Star Wars’ is pretty cool.”