Growing up in Tampa, Terry Martinez said he loved visiting Braddock Street in Tampa.
“Back then, residents would go all out decorating their homes,” Martinez said. “All of the homes on the street would be decked out with lights and decorations. We always went to see the displays.”
As a child, Martinez remembers promising himself that he’d follow suit when he eventually owned him own home.
And he’s kept that promise for 35 years, going above and beyond the usual string of lights at his home at 9711 Riverview Dr., Gibsonton.
“He’s still a kid at heart,” said Linda Martinez, who joined the tradition when she married her husband 12 years ago.
“Little by little, over the past 12 years we’ve been together, we’ve added decorations so now we have what you see today,” said Linda Martinez.
What started off as a modest display has transformed into a holiday spectacle that covers every crook and nanny inside the Martinez home and spills over onto the lawn where there’s a giant mechanical Santa, larger-than-life tin soldiers, an oversized nativity scene and dozens of blowup Christmas figures.
There’s a faux skating pond surrounded by whimsical Christmas animals, thousands of lights and a commercial popcorn machine where Terry stations himself each night making complimentary popcorn for all of the visitors who come to see the display.
“I meet the nicest people in the world standing right here in my front yard,” he said. “You meet people from all over the country who are visiting here and drop by to see the display. I love it.”
There have been Christmas Eves where the Martinezes have hosted as many as 300 visitors.
“You don’t realize how many people come here until you begin adding up the amount of popcorn served,” Terry said.
The display is free, but the couple has now added a donation box to help fund the cost of electricity for the expansive holiday display.
“It takes us most of the month of November to put the display together,” said Linda. “We start right after Halloween and open the display at Thanksgiving.”
In addition to the outside decorations, Linda’s interior decorations are visible through a large picture window on the front of the house. She generally decorates five Christmas trees, each with a different theme, and displays hundreds of Christmas collectibles in glass-front cabinets that line the walls of nearly every room in the home.
The bay window on the front of the house features a holiday bakery collection that Linda created herself with festively decorated cakes and candies.
Tracy and Kyle Roby of Riverview bring their two kids to the display every year and take a family photo at the Martinez home for their Christmas card.
“We’ve probably been coming for four or five years,” said Tracy Roby. “The kids just love it.”
The display is open to the public at dusk each evening until about 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.