'Christmas Vacation' display draws attention

What began as a holiday prank between two New Milford neighbors has blossomed into a holiday treat for the community.

In 2018, the Wilkinson family on Sunny Valley Road pranked their neighbors, the Clarks, by placing a mannequin Cousin Eddie, a character from “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” on their front lawn.

“We saw a lot of people liked it,” said Noah Clark, son of Tim Clark, who owns the house at 113 Sunny Vallery Road, where the mannequin was placed.

The display caught the attention of passersby and inspired the families to expand the display for 2019.

“We started last summer with the ideas,” Noah said, adding they found an RV for sale for a few hundred dollars on the side of a road.

After making the purchase, they renovated the vehicle and decked it out and added other props to resemble scenes from the comedy that follows Clark and Ellen Griswold and their family at Christmas time. The film stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo.

Noah said it took from Oct. 1 through Dec. 1 to figure out all of the details.

The Clarks’ home is wrapped in Christmas lights, mirroring the Griswold’s house in the movie.

In the film, the 25,000 twinkle lights fail to work at first because Clark accidentally wired them through his garage’s light switch. When they finally work, the brightness upsets the Griswold’s neighbors, Todd and Margo.

The Wilkinson family designed all of the mannequins, including the characters of Clark Griswold, Clark’s boss, Frank Shirley, and Cousin Eddie.

A sled with a hole in it, the outline of a cat under a chair, a storm drain, a Griswold mailbox, and a ladder on which Clark stands as he strings up Christmas lights on his house are among the props.

Next door at the Wilkinson home, a mailbox is labeled for “Todd and Margo,” the names of the Griswolds’ neighbors.

Before Christmas, the Clarks and Wilkinsons dressed up as characters from the movie and waved to passersby.

Noah shared excitement for next year’s display, but noted he cannot share any details of it yet.