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Clinton home brings holiday nostalgia through hand-painted display

Posted at 9:55 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 23:55:34-05

CLINTON, Utah — A Clinton homeowner is bringing smiles to the whole community, with a unique nostalgic Christmas display that brings onlookers on a magical journey through decades of holiday movies.

The man behind it is hoping to send a message to others during a lonely year.

Pulling up to the home on a Clinton neighborhood corner lot, kids can immediately see their favorite movie characters. As they walk around, they discover others carefully crafted by Kelly Hertel.

The Grinch greets families from Whoville in the front yard. Frosty the Snowman sits tucked away on the wall of Hertel's house, by the front door. Flick from "A Christmas Story" stands frozen in time, tongue stuck to a pole and all.

Several hidden Olafs peek out from behind displays, as a game for kids.

"We get excited to see all the shows that we love," said Marni Hall. She used to live near Hertel, but even after moving away, she keeps coming back with her kids.

The fun holiday movies, bring back holiday memories.

"Everybody loves it," Hall said. "It's something that really makes people happy."

Hertel paints each character by hand on plywood. He wanted to capture different generations of Christmas, through movies that people of all ages can relate to.

"So people can still reflect on those times of, really good times when they had a great childhood," Hertel said.

His display idea was born out of an elaborate Disney chalk art and Halloween display that Hertel spent several months creating earlier this year.

Read: Disney chalk art brings joy to Clinton neighborhood

The longtime Marine hadn't drawn in nearly two decades. Even then, Hertel explained the extent of his art didn't go beyond pencil and paper.

When the pandemic hit, inspiration struck.

Hertel drew a single, simple Stitch out of chalk on his driveway, to send a message of hope to his daughter in Kentucky during a hard time.

From there, he said the creativity began to flow. It turned into dozens of Disney characters on his driveway, down the entire sidewalk, all over the front of his house and garage, and on plywood cutouts in the front yard.

Several months and countless hours later, Hertel is still sending that message of hope to his daughter-- especially during the holidays.

A holiday Lilo and Stitch sit perched on the second story of his house.

"It's another Christmas that I don't get to spend with my daughter, and through these times," he said. "And that was the message for her, that her dad is still thinking of her."

He may not be able to see his daughter, but Hertel is spending his holiday with the whole community.

"I get to see that same smile, that glow, that light in their eyes and stuff that I would see through my kids if my kids were here," Hertel said. "So that is what I do that for, is just to keep the spirits going through this year."

Lifting spirits in the form of Olaf, Charlie Brown and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

"When they come here, they can walk through and feel the spirit, and share some memories of something that's really great," Hertel said.

As kids and parents share memories over holiday movie character cutouts, they're spending quality time together as a family for Christmas.

"That's what I hope to accomplish here," Hertel said. "People reaching out and getting closer with their families."

Hertel said he'll keep his display up through New Year's. His house can be found on the corner of W 1175 N and N 1120 W in Clinton.