Eight years ago, Dr. Gary Gropper put one Christmas inflatable on his family’s lawn in Brookhaven as an simple, easy way to show holiday spirit.
Now the Piedmont Hospital neurosurgeon is up to 150 inflatables — to the delight of hundreds of visitors and the chagrin of some neighbors, who say the display on Winall Down Road is causing major traffic backups as people get out their cars to get a good look at the display and snap photos.
“How could you not stop,” said Macon resident Ellie Peterson, 13, who came to Atlanta Thursday on a shopping spree with her mother and two friends. “We were thinking there’d be maybe 10 blowups, and there’s like a million.”
“It’s Christmas on steroids,” added her mother Jean Peterson.
Residents and Atlanta police told Channel 2 Action News the distracting decorations may have played a role in a car crash on Tuesday.
On Thursday, dozens of cars slowed down, and people left their cars to take pictures. “It’s amazing and I love the spirit of these people,” said Starr Millen, who brought her two grandchildren and husband to see the inflatables after a visit to the Pink Pig. “It’s brought so much joy” over the years, Millen said. “People expect him now to put this up. I don’t think he can get out of it.”
The inflatables are Dr. Gropper’s way of giving back, said his son Zach Gropper, 26, who says he, his parents, his brother and two sisters begin putting up the display the day after Thanksgiving. It takes two weeks to get them all up.
A steady stream of people come to visit all day, up until midnight when the family turns them off. “Because nothing good happens to an inflatable after midnight,” said Zach Gropper with a hearty laugh.
And those who do enjoy the massive Christmas display can help newborns in foster care by donating to The Genesis Shelter, Dr. Gropper’s charity.
“Last year, we raised about $4,000. This is a great place that brings a lot of cheer to people’s hearts for a great cause for The Genesis Shelter,” Zach Gropper told Channel 2.
He said Dr. Gropper won’t divulge how much he pays for lighting the display. “But my dad says Georgia Power sends him a box of Godiva chocolates every January,” Zach jokes.
Neighbors and the Groppers told Channel 2 they are hoping the city installs flashing red lights by next Christmas at the intersection of Winall and Peachtree Dunwoody roads to make it safer.