Combining his love of Halloween with his passion for M&M candies, Rick Pray has turned his home into a prime destination for trick-or-treaters in his West Oak Street neighborhood in Seymour.
For the past seven or eight years, Pray has decorated his yard with Halloween inflatables and other holiday-inspired decorations.
A dozen large inflatables nearly fill the front lawn. They include a haunted horse-drawn carriage, a Pac-Man pumpkin eating ghosts and M&M characters dressed as Dracula, Frankenstein and a scarecrow. There’s also a huge homemade spiderweb filled with fake arachnids of all sizes and colors, stretching their many legs.
“I have a big spider that’s motion activated, but I don’t put it out anymore because it was too scary,” Pray said.
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Another popular inflatable, a pirate in a treasure chest, also has been retired because it won’t fully inflate, he said.
At night is when the show really begins, as Pray turns on purple, orange and green lights, creepy music and even a fog machine to set the mood.
“It just keeps getting bigger,” he said of the display.
His neighbors seem to appreciate and enjoy Pray’s efforts, sitting on their front porches in the evenings to see people’s reactions as they drive or walk past.
“He works hard on it, and we love it,” one neighbor said.
The cost of keeping all of the inflatables full of air, the fog rolling and the lights on isn’t cheap, though.
“It raises our electric bill about $200,” he said.
He plans to switch to LED lights to save money.
And buying the decorations, which Pray finds on the Internet, at stores and at auctions or yard sales, also is costly.
But it helps make Halloween more of an experience than just a holiday, he said.
On Halloween night, Pray and his wife, Diana, welcome more than 200 trick-or-treaters. They give each child a can of soda and a king-size bag of M&Ms for visiting.
Families can wander around the yard to look at the decorations, get their picture taken against a Halloween backdrop and even tour the inside of the couple’s home, which Diana Pray describes as an M&M museum.
If families return the following year, they can pick up their photos, which Pray prints out and gives to the families at no cost.
“The year before last, we had 229 (trick-or-treaters),” he said. “And last year, we had 286. We have kids that come back every year.”
That includes families who have moved away but still make an effort to stop at the couple’s home.
“We had one that moved to Butlerville, and they came all the way back to Seymour just to see this,” he said.
This year, the couple are prepared to have up to 400 trick-or-treaters.
Inside their home, each room pays homage to Pray’s favorite candy. Literally thousands of M&M collectibles are displayed throughout the home, even in the bathroom.
Rick Pray has been amassing the items for nearly 20 years and has many rare and one-of-a-kind items.
He started buying stuffed M&Ms for his grandson when he was born but ended up being the one interested in keeping them. Items include an alarm clock, shower curtain, candy dispensers, jewelry, games, stuffed animals, key chains, toys, NASCAR diecasts, lunch boxes, figurines, tins, dishes and even M&M candies from other countries.
One of their rarest pieces is a medical pill dispenser filled with M&Ms that was used for nurses to practice administering medication.
“Our neighbor is a nurse at a nursing home, and they were just practicing with M&Ms in the dispenser, and she gave that to us,” Diana Pray said.
There are so many items, and it changes every week, so it’s impossible to count them all, Pray said.
“You could spend hours in here and still wouldn’t see them all,” he said.
He spends two to three hours each day looking online for deals on M&M items to add to his collection. The couple are members of the official M&M collectors club, and it’s a hobby they enjoy together, picking up M&M items wherever they travel.
They hope to pass down the interest in Halloween and M&Ms to their 2½-year-old great-grandson, Julius Adams.
“He’s learning how to put up Halloween decorations this year,” Pray said.
It takes a lot of work getting everything set up just right, but it’s worth it come Oct. 31, he said.
“I get enjoyment from all those kids. They love it,” he said. “This is all about the kids.”
“This is his season,” Diana Pray added, although the family also decorates for Christmas.
His motto, which is posted on one of his M&M signs near the front porch, is: “Make their Halloween happy.”
“It’s their day,” he said.