HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — When Frank Hudak turns back the calendar to Christmas past, colorful reflections are captured in black and white.
“It brings back a lot of memories. A lot of memories,” Hudak said.
Snippets and snapshots from Memory Lane line his western Henrico home.
“All of these photos came from Richmond newspapers," he said flipping through old photos.
You’re bound to make headlines when you’re known simply as "Mr. Christmas."
Good luck finding a blade of grass on Hudak’s front lawn.
This time of year Christmas decorations dot every inch of his Wistar Court home.
“I start decorating about the middle of September,” he said. “And a lot of them have been out of print for a lot of years. I got some out here that were made back in the early 60s.”
Hudak sets up most of the decorations himself.
“I’m crawling around and I start to hurt in places I didn’t even know I owned,” Hudak said.
Decorating has been his beloved holiday tradition stretching back a half century.
"When you’re doing something like this you really have to be dedicated. It isn’t a matter of buying some lights and just throwing them in a bush and saying there. That doesn’t work,” Hudak said.
Hudak is an original.
The married father of two witnessed the birth of the Tacky Light Tour.
“When Christmas comes, the warmth of Christmas and the glow just brings people together. I love that,” he described.
Richard Bernard said his neighbor inspired him to make the season bright too.
“He has literally been a pillar to the community,” Bernard said. “It is amazing how many people he alone drew to this cul-de-sac.”
Mr. Christmas even amps up his display by adding his very own FM radio station on 107.7.
“It seems to add a whole lot more depth to our display,” Hudak said. “I stood out here several nights with the lights on twinkling and blinking and looking at this I thought there was something missing what’s missing. The music.”
But when the sun goes down, the wattage goes up.
“That is when it is on. That is when I’m on. It’s on. It’s showtime,” Hudak said. “We’ve been a Richmond tradition for over 50 years.”
Hundreds of thousands of lights keep the neighborhood, and Mr. Christmas himself, radiating.
“Once you get past a certain age, you can explore your inner child,” Hudak said.
His glowing reputation even landed a clean-shaven Mr. Christmas on national TV in 2006.
“When he comes out, he lights up with a smile because of the crowds,” Bernard said.
Hudak, a former disc jockey and Henrico County deputy, takes the spirit of giving to heart.
In 30 years, he has collected and donated more than $175,000 to the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” Hudak said. “I love being able to give everyone in Richmond and everyone else a gift.”
How popular is Frank Hudak’s display? People from 38 States and 16 countries have all experienced the magic.
“I love being out here with the children when they come in with their grandparents and parents,” he said.
But a string of sadness hangs over Hudak’s home this year.
Mr. Christmas is lighting up for the last time.
At 80 years old, Mr. Hudak will unplug for good — marking the end of an era.
“I don’t know how much I’m going to miss it just yet. I know I will miss it,” Hudak said. “There is a time in life it is never too easy to do this when you have to realize your limitations.”
Until then though he will make more memories to last a lifetime.
“I feel that this is one of the most important things I’ve done in this world,” Hudak. “This is our grand finale.”
So if you’re hungry for a taste of nostalgia, swing by Wistar Court this holiday season and Mr. Christmas will keep the lights on for you.
“My hope is that it will leave Richmond with wonderful and warm memories of the season. I really do,” he said.
Wistar Court will not go dark for good.
Frank Hudak’s neighbor will keep the Tacky Light tradition alive at his home, and Mr. Christmas promises to be there to welcome each and every visitor.
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