In June, Nancy Wilkinson starts planning for Halloween.
She develops a running story line. She tweaks her 40 or so plastic skeletons and creates plywood skeleton horses or dinosaurs in her backyard shop. She maintains extensive spreadsheets to keep herself on task.
In October, she takes off every Friday from her IT job at Coke to work on the display. Friends and neighbors come by to help assemble the big pieces -- the pirate ship, or the jail cell, or the train.
"It's like a part-time job," she said.
The result: Wilkinson's Adair Street house is a must-see spot for yard decoration gawkers. It overflows with moving skeletons, tombstones made of styrofoam and inscribed with her own corny jokes, railroad tracks where a skeleton engineer runs the B&D (Boneyard and Decatur) Railway, not to mention a flock of black flamingoes.
She decorates for almost any holiday, including Easter, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo and her Feb. 12 birthday. She's won the city government prizes for best Halloween and Christmas decorations and first place in the 2011 Patch Halloween photo contest.
But she's come to love Halloween best, and what she really appreciates is the vote of confidence from kids. Last year about 400 trick or treaters knocked on her door.
Expect a new look this Halloween. She's dropped the pirate theme used since 2006 and gone with a Western look.
Wilkinson has documented her decorating history with photos on her Facebook page, Boneyard Buckaroos. (Feel free to "Like" the page.)
The decorations are so extensive they spill into the front yard of her neighbor, who is glad to cooperate. Other decorations--a viking ship and some leftover pirate skeletons--made their way into Megan Johnson's front yard across the street.
Johnson said her kids love it and even painted the shields on the ship.
"I think it's really neat the way she's built relationships in the neighborhood," Johnson said.
Why does Wilkinson go so big with decorations?
"I like to share," she explained, "and it's easier to do when it's big and public. It's a blast. I've gotten to know every neighbor and to know so many of the kids this way."
Here's a previous Patch story about Nancy's decorations.