You won’t find plastic skulls and cheesy skeletons in Steve Powers’ Halloween display.
He’s made practically everything by hand for the giant Halloween show that unfolds on the front yard of his Ahwatukee home every weekend through the end of October.
And he almost gave it all up.
Since moving to Ahwatukee 11 years ago, the commercial airline pilot had grown his Halloween display from a few scattered tombstones into an elaborate musical horror show he titled “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in tribute to the Disney film of the same name.
Actually, a trip to Disneyland inspired Powers to develop the show.
After seeing the characters that populate the Haunted Mansion ride, Powers, who had no carpentry experience, set about building columns and characters and using cables and choreography to develop a seven-minute show that has drawn thousands to his neighborhood.
“I liked the movie and display because it was kid-friendly and did not include all of the blood and gore that Halloween has turned into,” Powers said.
Powers initially was ready to give it all up after last year because “it was so much work.”
“It would take me a couple months to put together,” he said. “I had to create every single thing.”
When he first got the idea for the show, Powers said, “I thought this would be kind of cool to do something like this for Halloween.
“I went around to a lot of stores only to find out there’s nothing you can get there or on the internet,” he added. “I spent months building all the characters and the columns.”
Powers couldn’t say farewell to all that work, so instead he has added translucent screens and a digital loop to make more use of video in the display.
“This year, it’s been a little easier on me,” he said. “I have the same graveyard with all the ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ elements, but I’m using a lot of projectors.”
Witches and ghosts in the graveyard sing, encouraging spectators to join in as they go through popular songs from movies like “Ghostbusters,” “The Addams Family” and, of course, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
“It will be a Halloween family sing-along of sorts,” Powers said, proud of the fact that he is keeping his display family-friendly.
Powers is happy he didn’t give up.
“The last few years, I keep telling people that this will be it, it will be the last year I do it because I am just really burned out,” Powers said last year. “But when I see all of the hundreds of people who come to see this and how the little kids’ faces just light up, I suddenly think I will go for another year.”
When his daughter was born 16 years ago, Powers said he had a little display to amuse her in the backyard of his home, then in Chandler.
He said his daughter in the last few years seemed to take the display for granted and didn’t pay it much heed.
But that changed when he initially announced he wasn’t doing the show anymore.
“You know how teenagers are,” he said. “The second I told her I wasn’t doing anything, she said, ‘Dad, you can’t stop.’”
Powers said that he is frequently asked what he does for Christmas.
“I’d just put up some lights because I was so worn out by Halloween,” he said.
But now that he has discovered how digital equipment can make his life easier, Powers might change all that.
“This year, I am kind of thinking about Christmas video images,” he said.
The 20-minute shows will run continually 7-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday in front of Powers’ home at 2537 E. Amberwood Drive.