Joel Pace decided to do something different for Halloween back in 2015; he created a Harry Potter themed decoration on the front porch of his home. Although it was initially intended for his family's enjoyment, over the years it’s grown into a neighborhood “must-see,” and an attraction that their community looks forward to visiting each year on Halloween. When Pace’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, this endeavor became a passion project and he started to out-do himself with each passing Halloween season. Decorations and massive displays brought joy to his wife and the whole neighborhood, but also became an avenue to raise money for local charities.
- It's clear!
- OK, we're done.
JOEL PACE: With this project, I'm out in my yard every weekend. And people come by, people help, we develop relationships, we develop a community here. And it's important for that to continue, even during a pandemic.
Around 2015 my wife and I decided to do a small, just on our front porch, Harry Potter themed decoration. The neighborhood loved it. The next year, we did another, little bit larger one. But then in 2017, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. You know, she had a 17 hour surgery. As part of her recovery, she asked me to do the decorations again. It made her feel better to see all the stuff I was building.
In 2018 it got even bigger and we started raising money for charity. Us being able to transition it away from her cancer treatment to supporting local children's charities has been a really rewarding experience. We would probably have somewhere between 8,000 to 10,000 people come through the display.
This year, with the pandemic and COVID-19 and social distancing, it was just really impossible to put on that type of event. Me being concerned about my wife and I don't want my neighborhood to be at risk. We sat down and decided, OK, what are we going to do. I'm like, well, I guess I could just build a castle, you know, a scale model of Hogwarts, and we could put it in the front yard. I think it'll work.
- That's the base of Dumbledore's tower.
- Wow. Look at the details on this. This is absolutely stunning.
JOEL PACE: We're encouraging people to drive by, not to get out of their cars, if possible. We're going to keep it open longer this year. It's not just going to be a Halloween display, our intent is to keep it open from Halloween all the way through the end of the year, and change the decorations from obviously Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas.
It's important to continue this year and put up some type of display. Everybody's craving some sense of normalcy, we want to think things are getting better and feel like not everything's been taken away. One of the most rewarding things we've gotten out of this is we know our neighbors really, really well. And this project has really helped do that.
- I don't know if you can get how big this all is. It's well done, it's beautiful.
JOEL PACE: This year we're sponsoring three local Austin charities. I think it's easy to forget some of the others who are even more in need-- the foster kids, kids with special needs, and economically disadvantaged children. And so this is an opportunity for us to remind everybody that-- to remember others, and to support charities. Even when times are hard like this. It's important to remember that there's always somebody else who needs your help.