🔒Inside Pecan Grove’s massive inflatables holiday lights display: Homeowner shares his inspiration, the drive to win, and how it’s done

Chris Kalvert's home in Pecan Grove, a subdivision in the Richmond area. (Chris Kalvert, Chris Kalvert)

RICHMOND, Texas – You could say Chris Kalvert’s love of all things merry and bright started with Popeyes Fried Chicken – or at least its founder, Alvin Copeland.

Kalvert, of Pecan Grove, a Richmond-area subdivision beloved for its lights, is a New Orleans native who grew up near where Copeland lived -- and celebrated the holiday season in grand fashion. Watch a short feature on Copeland’s display here. People lined up their cars for miles through neighborhoods to see the entrepreneur’s home.

Kalvert, a local body shop manager, told KPRC 2 that he decided when he grew up he wanted to do his house like that, so when he moved to Pecan Grove in 2015, he had the chance.

Though he said he’s still not on Copeland’s level, he’s hoping in a couple of years he’ll get there.

Well, he’s well on his way.

See the Kalvert family’s displays through the years. See how they grow. Here are photos starting in 2016.

Chris Kalvert Christmas display in Pecan Grove, as seen from 2016-2020. (Chris Kalvert)
Chris Kalvert Christmas display in Pecan Grove, as seen from 2016-2020. (Chris Kalvert)
Chris Kalvert Christmas display in Pecan Grove, as seen from 2016-2020. (Chris Kalvert)
Chris Kalvert Christmas display in Pecan Grove, as seen from 2016-2020. (Chris Kalvert)

This year, Kalvert – a self-described “kinda particular” type – sets up the massive lights and inflatables display outside his house on Alma Court, largely by himself. That’s by design, really, because he said with a laugh that his wife and three kids, ages 8, 10, and 12 complain that he immediately changes up what they’ve done.

Chris Kalvert's home in Pecan Grove, a subdivision in the Richmond area. (Chris Kalvert)

The “one-man show” set-up starts the first or second week of November and is complete by Dec. 10 or 11 – a total of 30 to 40 man hours into it.

This year’s display is the biggest ever for Kalvert. What started as a love of the family’s SpongeBob inflatable has become an obsession for him and his family. Kalvert said the day after Christmas is his Black Friday, when he scoops up all the unique inflatables and LED lights he can get on discount.

And it’s certainly paying off. The family will have 50 inflatables adorning the front yard this year – and not just any inflatables.

Kalvert is an inflatable connoisseur and tinkerer. He not only knows where to purchase the rare ones online and in stores, but also knows how to fix them from the inside-out. In recent years, Kalvert said he’s turned most of his display over to LED lights. Only his largest inflatables that don’t have the capability remain on incandescent lights. The electric bill? Only up $15 to $20 a month through the holiday season. The upkeep of inflatables is also part of the work of Kalvert’s display. He has replacement fans and can patch them, as needed. That’s particularly important for the rarest and most-sought-after inflatables like his candy cane archway and Whataburger cup – both of which are now unavailable for purchase.

Regular upkeep of the display is harder this year, Kalvert said, because of supply chain issues.

He said he went to three different Home Depots to find red LEDs and there was no inventory – unheard of usually at this time of the year.

The display is mostly about the fun of it for Kalvert and his family.

“The best part is hearing everybody outside kids laughing and screaming, ‘Look at that one!’ And the parents laughing at the ‘Ditto’ house,” Kalvert said.

Ditto refers to the house next to Kalvert’s. It’s a joke he and his neighbors have done year after year – a ditto sign in their yard with an arrow. It’s low-maintenance fun for them, too, as Kalvert has connected the lights from the sign to his display and provided the two inflatables beside it for them.

“It’s a joke and it just kind of stuck,” he said.

At KPRC 2, we’re wondering when Kalvert will start decorating for his entire street -- but that would likely take away the other part of the holiday lights fun: the competition.

Kalvert said he keeps an eye out on the displays from neighbors. “We may take a peek at everyone’s display and see if they’re measuring up,” he said.

Kalvert said the display is one of those “hidden gems” inside the subdivision that’s not on the official Pecan Grove map of homes. Here’s last year’s edition for reference.

The plan for the display is always bigger and better, according to Kalvert. He’s always got an eye on the next thing. He said he’s looking into permanent Christmas lights that would be installed on the house channels under the eaves with a controller in the attic. His voice takes on a Christmas morning excitement as he describes its features like changing the color and flashing options.

He’s also planning more archways for the sidewalk and a higher streetlight pole with candy cane lights.

Asked if he’ll ever be satisfied with the display, he replied “probably not.”

But what happens after the holidays? Where does everything go?

Kalvert said the family packs the inflatables into bins and stores them away in a storage unit after outgrowing their garage and attic spaces.

“It’s gotten to be so much,” he said, but adding that his family is all-in. “My wife was at Home Depot (recently) and was like, ‘I picked up five more inflatables.”

If you head toward Alma Court in Pecan Grove, you’ll likely see Kalvert and his family outside the house – or at least just Kalvert. He’ll be sitting in the garage, likely watching TV or listening to music. He likes to make sure the display stays safe for passersby. Be sure to stop by and say “hi” if you go. Tell him KPRC 2 sent you.

Russell Harrison image of Chris Kalvert's Pecan Grove lights display, as shared with KPRC 2 on Dec. 10, 2021. (RHarrisonPhotos)

But take a spin through now if you want!

Okay now we’re done…. #hateUs #pecangrove #christmas2021

Posted by Chris Kalvert on Sunday, December 5, 2021

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.