ONTARIO – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Phillips’ house in Ontario.
For the fourth straight year, the Phillips family — Joshua and Laura Phillips and their five children — are stringing thousands of lights and setting up dozens of blow-up and blow-molded holiday decorations around their property in Ontario creating the Phillips Family Christmas Wonderland in the hopes they make the season just a little bit brighter for their friends and neighbors. Their home is located at 4175 N. C.R. 230E in Ontario.
For the last couple of weekends, it’s been all hands on deck at the Phillips house, as everyone is helping setting up dozens and dozens of decorations on the 2-acre lot the family owns to the north of their home, creating a holiday wonderland. Thousands of lights are carefully strung on the roof of the Phillips’ home, and family patriarch Joshua Phillips is now working diligently to synchronize those lights to a loop of Christmas music. The Phillips are broadcasting that music at 89.7 FM on the radio dial.
This year, the walk-through is back open again, and they’ve added a new blow-up dog park for everyone’s entertainment.
“We’ve added more lights to the house, making it bigger and better,” Phillips said
So far, COVID-19 has not shaken up the Phillips Family Christmas Wonderland too much. Although LaGrange County likely will still be considered a COVID hotspot this holiday season, Phillips is encouraging people to do what they need to do to protect themselves and their families. The holiday walk is outdoors, making it safer, and people are encouraged to wear a mask if they feel the need. Just to be safe, the family has opted not to sell cups of hot chocolate, brownies and other small snack items this year.
“We just don’t have any way of pre-packing things,” he said.
Phillips said COVID has taken away so many things from local families that he, his wife, and his children felt the need to keep this tradition alive.
“We decided we were going to do the walk through despite COVID,” he said. “Because of COVID, we’ve had a lot of things change in our lives.”
Santa started visiting the Phillips property at least once during the holiday season and Phillips said that tradition will continue again this year, although slightly different. For starters, people will be encouraged to give Santa a little room, about 6 feet, give their holiday lists to him and then move on.
Phillips said his family didn’t feel obligated to set up their local wonderland once again, but rather, they wanted to. Phillips said he and his wife briefly talked about canceling this year’s event because of COVID but quickly decided to go ahead.
“We want to do this,” he said. “It was never a question whether we would decorate the house again this year. We talked about whether we would do the walk-through again this year, and how much more we would add to it. At the end of the last Christmas season, we probably bought 15 new holiday blow-ups and displays we wanted to add this year. It’s been a challenge this year, but never so much a challenge that we considered not doing it. Our kids get a kick out of doing this, kids in the community get a kick out of it, we even have people travel here from Fort Wayne and South Bend that are fans of what we do, so, we decided it needed to be done.”
The wonderland opens to the public on Saturday, Nov. 28, and remains open every Friday through Sunday from 6-8 p.m. until Saturday, Jan. 2.
New for this year will be a salute to the holiday movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” featuring an RV and Cousin Eddie.
“Yeah, Eddie’s making an appearance this year,” he said.
The Phillips Family Christmas Wonderland is free and open to the public.
“We do take donations because we have to keep the electricity flowing,” Phillips said.