Holiday Display Delights Connecticut Community While Supporting Shriners Children’s New England
For the past 23 years, the Halliwell family of Fairfield, Connecticut, has turned a beloved holiday tradition into an opportunity to give back to their community, and to Shriners Children’s New England. Gene, a Pyramid Shriner, and his wife Mary, personally welcome the thousands of people who travel to their home on Roseville Terrace to celebrate the season with a stunning outdoor light display.
The Halliwells kicked off this year’s Wonderland at Roseville on Thanksgiving weekend, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The sprawling display will be lit every evening through New Year’s Day.
Visitors are offered cookies and hot cocoa as they stroll through Gene and Mary’s entire property, all free of charge. Visitors often ask the Halliwells if they will accept money to help offset their expenses. Gene always suggests donations be made to Shriners Children’s, and after repeated requests for an onsite collection, the family began providing boxes 12 years ago. To date, the Halliwells have donated $185,000 to Shriners Children’s New England, and in recent years have averaged 18,000-25,000 visitors from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.
When Gene and Mary purchased their home on Roseville Terrace, only five decorations were included in their first display. Each year they’ve added features, traveling to New Jersey, Tennessee and Michigan for new pieces and even planning home renovations to accommodate the growing event. They added a porch, leveled the lawn, built a storage shed and reconfigured the electrical service to the yard.
Wonderland at Roseville is truly a family affair with Gene and Mary’s daughter, and son-in-law and adopted son, who are also Shriners, participating in the planning and design. Each night, the couple dresses in costume as Santa and Mrs. Claus and sit at a fire pit as they greet their guests.
Gene has built much of the incredible display himself, including Santa’s workshop, a chapel and a reindeer barn. They’ve moved from incandescent to LED and pixel lighting, and many features are computer controlled. Featured on Good Morning America and the Today show, Wonderland at Roseville is illuminated by an estimated 500,000 lights.
Gene has a simple answer when asked about his family’s motivation for hosting the annual spectacle. “It’s all for the kids,” he said. “We want it to go where it’s most needed at Shriners Children’s.”
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