PEI

From Canada Day to Christmas, this P.E.I. man always finds something to celebrate

From Canada Day to Christmas Day, Sterling Ramsay celebrates the seasons and holidays with fantastic front yard displays.

Sterling Ramsay decks out his front yard with holiday displays all year round

Last July 1, Sterling Ramsay welcomed new immigrants who were celebrating Canada's national holiday for the first time. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Sterling Ramsay has never met a holiday he didn't like.

Throughout the year, the 71-year-old avid gardener celebrates holidays and the seasons by festooning his front yard on Euston Street in Charlottetown with larger-than-life decorations.

'I just enjoy accentuating'

Depending on the season, you could be greeted by Santa, howling ghosts or the Easter bunny.

"I just enjoy accentuating the various seasons and holidays," said Ramsay, a former interior designer for stores and restaurants.

So with Canada Day almost here, what else would you expect to see but a moose in a Mountie outfit, holding a Canadian flag. 

The moose is flanked by two giant inflatable maple leafs and strands of hundreds of red and white lights. 

"I'll be adding to the display right through until Canada Day," Ramsay said. "And I have sound effects … I have my favourite Canadian music."

'I got hooked on it'

Ramsay's love of decorating goes back to Christmas when he was 10 years old.

"The first thing I remember is shuffling up a ladder and putting a little tree with lights on it up on the back porch roof and running lights along the eave," he said. 

Fortunately, his parents liked his work. "They didn't have a choice. And then I got hooked on it." 

Kids flock by the hundreds to see Ramsay's Halloween display. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Ramsay started decorating his current home when he moved in 12 years ago. 

Last July 1, he welcomed new immigrants who were celebrating Canada's national holiday for the first time.

"I had a group of new Canadians, Syrian refugees in fact, and they had a translator with them and it meant so much to them."

'If I get electrocuted, it's gotta be done'

It's those moments that make the long hours in all kinds of weather worth it.

"It's not work to me. I enjoy every minute of it, I really do," Ramsay said as he struggled in the rain to string up another strand of lights.

"Even in the rain. There's a deadline and one way or the other, if I get electrocuted, it's gotta be done."

Ramsay says there's a lot of work that goes into each change of decoration, but it doesn't feel like work to him. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Christmas has always been Ramsay's favourite time of the year.

"My mother had 15 brothers and sisters so Christmas and getting together and that kind of thing was always big."

He even has a favourite decoration: two laser light units with an animated display synchronized with music.

And speaking of lights, he knows he's got about 5,000 Christmas lights, but couldn't tell you more than that.

"I have Halloween lights, computerized lights and you name it. So I've lost count."

Halloween is creeping up to the top of Ramsay's list of favourite seasons for decorating. (Submitted David MacLellan)

While Christmas is still the most wonderful time of the year, Halloween is creeping up to the top of Ramsay's decorating list.

"I can get a lot of animated characters and sound effects and smoke machines and so on. I like to make it exciting."

'Neighbours aren't too pleased'

In fact, he's made it so exciting that young trick or treaters are flocking to see the skeletons and ghouls.

"The first year here, we probably had 15 kids come to the door," Ramsay said. "And now we're getting about 350-400. The neighbours aren't too pleased."

With so many holidays and seasons to celebrate, Ramsay has decorations crammed in the basement and stockpiled in a shed. He's even had to rent a storage unit.

Ramsay's yard is currently awash in Canadian regalia and colours. (Pat Martel/CBC)

I ask him how he manages to find anything. "Well, I don't find it. That's the problem," he said. "I've got so much now, but I keep buying."

Ramsay keeps his displays fresh and exciting thanks in part to an eye for bargains.

"Just this morning, I noticed there was a sale," he said.

"They had flying maple leaf light units, laser lights and they were regularly $50, on for $5, so I had to have six of them."

Easter is one of the many holidays Ramsay celebrates with his front yard displays. He's planning to add Valentine's Day and St Patrick's Day next year. (Pat Martel/CBC)

When Ramsay runs out of holidays and seasons to celebrate, he makes time for his first love — gardening. His front garden is an attraction in itself, especially for tourists. 

"Oh yeah, non-stop," he said. "I tend to plant rare exotic type plants, like rare varieties of lilies."

This year, he's putting in a 20-foot popcorn plant that actually smells like buttered popcorn. 

'People thanking me for my garden'

People do appreciate his hard work.

"Three days ago, I got a note left in my mailbox," he said. "I get them every now and then from people thanking me for my garden."

Ramsay's displays are well lit. He's got 5,000 Christmas lights and so many other lights he's lost count. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The displays are so close to the sidewalk that people can touch the stuff as they walk by. Surprisingly, vandalism or theft is not a problem.

"I've had the odd floral basket taken but other than that, no," he said. "People I find are very respectful." 

Ramsay's first love is still gardening, and after the Canada Day decorations come down he'll put up a 20-foot popcorn plant that actually smells like buttered popcorn. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Ramsay doesn't currently decorate for every holiday, but he's got plans. Valentine's Day and St Patrick's Day are both on next year's list. 

Christmas is still Ramsay's favourite time of the year and he celebrates by decorating both inside and outside the house. (Submitted David MacLellan)

He hopes to continue his decorating for a long time.

"As long as I'm mobile, I'll be putting up displays," he said. "You may see me out here with a walker, but I'll do it. I can't see myself ever stopping."

More P.E.I. News

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pat Martel has worked with CBC P.E.I. for three decades, mostly with Island Morning where he was a writer-broadcaster and producer. He joined the web team recently to share his passion for great video. Pat also runs an adult coed soccer league in Stratford. He retired in Oct. 2019.

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