BUCKHEAD, Ga. -- It seemed like a good, easy idea. "You could plug in, instant decoration. When you're through with it, unplug it, stick it in a box. Five minutes, done."
But like many ideas, it grew.
Doctor Gary Gropper stands in the middle of his crowded front yard at the corner of Peachtree Dunwoody Road in Buckhead. He admits, "One became five, became ten, became 25 became an obsession."
Eleven years and 150 inflatables later, Doctor Gary Gropper's front yard is a crammed kaleidoscope of Christmas.
"This is holiday inflatamania!"
As he takes us on a tour he says, "I find it to be almost a personal zen garden."
Zen may not be a word Doctor Gropper's neighbors would use. Pointing all around him, he says, "They've moved. The neighbors here moved. The neighbors here moved."
That five minute set up now takes ten days and two men, Dr. Gropper and his son Zack.
Zack Gropper says, "That's the best. We get to bond over football and inflatables."
There is an inflatable hierarchy here -- new kids in the front, codgers in the back.
Putting up some older inflatables along Peachtree Dunwoody, Zack laughs. "This is sort of the retirement lane right here."
But they are all members of the same airy family, mentioned in the most tender of terms.
"You do have to be patient with them," Gropper says. Even the ones that suffered deflating attacks from vandals. "It looks like it's a mess and it is but it's our mess."
Even the ones whose motors won't start.
"The fan isn't spinning." We watch as this brain surgeon sticks his head inside the inflatable to investigate. Then, with a hammer, he pounds his way to success.
The fan begins a noisy whir. "Just needed a little help," he says.
This is the sound of Dr. Gropper's Christmas.
He walks his yard, delighting in his characters, pointing out his favorites. "There's Santa coming out of the RV. There he is, yeah!"
He says anything that moves is a favorite. One of the newest additions is a Mister Potato Head that bears an uncanny resemblance to Gropper, with his bushy mustache.
In Gropper's yard "When the gingerbread men are dancing things are right in the world."
Nighttime is a traffic jammed wonder, with Gropper's driveway overflowing with visitors. It's a place of annual family pilgrammages. Christmas music blares from a boombox on the front porch, competing with the shrieks of excited children.
This is why Dr. Gropper does it. It's impossible to be unhappy here.
He does it for the kids. For the kid inside each of us.
"It's not brain surgery but it can have a very positive effect on people. It ought to be a time of joy."11 alive news.
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