KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After a popular holiday display was destroyed, the Hardin Valley community stepped up to replenish the missing and damaged items, making it even bigger than before. For the last 16 years, the Ellison family built a display outside their home at the corner of Elm Grove Lane and Hardin Valley Road. They create one for fall and winter.
It’s been a family tradition. “My wife, my daughter, my son and I, we’ve always just you know, put together something and it’s gotten a little larger each year that we’ve done it,” Chris Ellison said.
Ellison said they put a lot of hard work into their display. They start in the summer, growing their own pumpkins and gourds. At least 90% of the arrangement is homegrown. It only takes a few days to piece the display together, but parts of it take several hours to create. “The horses were about 30 hours a piece. So, that was a long-drawn-out process, but they’re made out of corn stalk,” Ellison said.
But, a few nights ago, the elaborate arrangement was destroyed. “My daughter noticed out of her window that there were people stashing our pumpkins away in their car. So, when we ran out, we’d realized that they had been doing it for quite some time,” Ellison said.
Ellison said whoever the group was grabbed about 25 pumpkins, but left the largest one, which weighed about 200 pounds. He posted to social media about the vandalism and debated with his family whether they want to keep the display. However, his post attracted a lot of attention from community members and he soon learned the display meant so much more to his neighbors, such as Penny Wilkinson.
“We enjoy seeing it every year. I think it’s a special part of the community and I was super sad to hear that somebody had vandalized it and destroyed it,” Wilkinson said. Wilkinson had the idea, if everyone in Hardin Valley just brought one pumpkin or decoration, the display would be as good as new.
She said it was an easy fix that anyone could help with. “Our housing is busting at the seams, housing is expensive. There’s a lot of craziness going on. But, something like this is just an easy fix,” Wilkinson said.
She and her family, including her son Sawyer, helped pick items to put on the display. “Yes, I did. We just went to Food City and picked up (a pumpkin),” Sawyer said.
Several businesses in the area also chipped in. To them, the Ellison family is more than just customers. Hardin Valley is also their home, and the Ellisons are their neighbors. Denise Douglas, the owner of the Hardin Valley UPS Store, said she saw the post and knew she had to help. They even found a way to support the family locally.
“We bought our stuff here locally. And so I went in and we bought some pumpkins and we bought some mums because we knew that some of the mums were a little bloomed out and we’re like, ‘oh they’re going to have to have mums,'” Douglas said.
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Douglas said the community stepping up was like a phoenix raising from the ashes. The original display was born, but through the negativity, positivity shines through. Even new businesses stepped up, like HOTWORX, which has only been in the area for about a year.
“The Valley really takes pride in their community. And so, the first thing I thought was we need to rebuild this. And I’m so glad that everybody’s come together to do that,” Kim Betts, General Manager of Hardin Valley HOTWORX, said.
Betts said the whole issue disgusted her and she thought it was devastating. “We just went out and got a couple of mums and a few pumpkins and went down there. Mr. Ellison was out there, we talked with him for about 20 minutes, and it was just such a good feeling to help out.”
UPS Store, HOTWORX, Edler’s Ace Hardware and Food City are some of the businesses that helped out. That’s not including the individual families who also gave a hand to add more decorations. Ellison had no idea the display was that loved in the community. He said he and his family took the setup for granted, but now they have even more appreciation for it.
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He said the outpouring of support was amazing. “Just gives you chills to sit here and think that you know, the community does love this o much and you know, it’s an expectation, it’s one of those that, I guess the bars raised for next year already.”
Ellison said he did report the vandalism to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. He said he does have surveillance video.