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East County Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 5 months ago

Seuss in the spotlight in Lakewood Ranch

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River Grove residents agree with Dr. Seuss: "What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Going down Spikerush Court, you’ll slowly leave Riverwalk Grove and enter into the magical Christmas-cheer-filled land of Whoville.

Not everything is jolly, though, because the Grinch is ready to wreak havoc.

Every Christmas, Peggy and Skip Turner transform their front yard at 7155 Spikerush Court into Whoville with dozens of characters and, most importantly, the Grinch and Cindy Lou. 

Decorating the front yard with characters from the Dr. Seuss classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” stemmed from Peggy Turner’s love for all of Dr. Seuss’ work. She owns about 400 Dr. Seuss books and has enjoyed them since she was a child.

Dr. Seuss books were ones their kids, Jake Turner, Brandy Weeks and Megan Russo, read and even memorized as children.

About 15 years ago, Peggy Turner, now a teacher at Robert E. Willis Elementary School, needed a classroom theme to help her students get excited about coming into the classroom. Her choice was obvious: Dr. Seuss.

“I love the way he writes his stories,” she said. “It keeps the kids interested. Rhyming is a huge beginning reading skill they need to know. They’re comical. The kids love it.”

Then when they were creating a mural in Jake Turner’s room, they decided to bring to life the Whoville characters for everyone to see. Four years ago, Whoville made its way into Riverwalk during the holidays.

The couple works together to find a photo of the characters; then they make it into a transparency they use to trace the character on wood, cut it out and paint it.

“I think it brings my husband and I closer because it gives us something to work on together,” Peggy Turner said.

With about 25 total pieces to make to complete their Christmas-loving city, the couple spends a few weekends putting everything together in the yard.

They usually start the weekend after Thanksgiving, but if there are characters to be made, they start at the beginning of November.

“My kids from my classroom will stop by and take pictures in front of the Grinch,” Peggy Turner said. “My neighbors will stop by and rave about how much it means to them to drive by and take a look.”

The Turners try to add a new element to their creation each year.

Due to Skip Turner undergoing carpal tunnel surgery this holiday season and Peggy Turner recovering from a virus, the couple took longer than usual to put all the decorations on their home.

As of Dec. 11, the Turners still needed to put the Grinch’s lair on their roof of the home. The yard still looked magical with the Grinch standing tall next to his dog, Max, and Whoville residents singing carols around a tree.

Both Skip and Peggy Turner said the greatest joy they get out of putting up their display is seeing the looks of excitement on children’s and parents’ faces as they come by the house.

The biggest challenges the Turners face when working on the display is deciding how they’ll get the Grinch’s lair on the roof and where to store all the pieces after the holidays.

The Turners’ display has not come without competition from neighbors, such as Tim Cunningham, who lives two doors down and goes all out every Christmas with decorations.

The rivalry started before Whoville was created and when the Turners used blow-ups to decorate their home. Cunningham stole a blow-up helicopter. For payback, Jake Turner unplugged all of Cunningham’s lights.

The Christmas competition continues to this day. Cunningham drove down their street with a Whoville character, which the Turners had recently thrown out, in his passenger seat. The Turner laughed when they saw Cunningham’s passenger.

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