One of the biggest shocks for those who saw Gerd Willenberg’s house in Blind Bay last Oct. 31 may be that he’s not much of a fan of Halloween.
Last year, Willenberg transformed his residence on 2490 Waverly Drive into what he calls his “Halloween House,” the property and residence covered in lights, animatronics and other fitting decor. The display was a hit among the 500 visitors who saw it and helped Willenberg raise cash and a pickup-truck full of food for the local food bank.
While enthusiastic about Halloween House and what it brings to the community, Willenberg said Halloween wasn’t a thing in his youth (it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the occasion was celebrated in Germany), and that he isn’t really a fan of spooky things like horror movies. But Willenberg does enjoy making people happy, and supporting a good cause in the process.
“First, I like to bring joy and happiness to the people, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Christmas house or a Halloween house,” said Willenberg. “Second, it’s a good thing to collect donations for something that needs it.”
Willenberg is already making plans and adding to his decoration collection for this year’s Halloween House. This year, funds raised will benefit the Shuswap Children’s Association.
After 20 years of being a seasonal resident in Blind Bay, Willenberg transitioned to full-time resident in 2020, leaving his home in Hamm, Germany, where he was something of a celebrity for his Christmas and Halloween houses.
“In Germany I started small – I never expected after years it would get so big,” said Willenberg who, come Halloween, in addition to trick-or-treaters, would also be visited by local media, wanting to tour the house and see how the display had grown.
“I know the people like it and, compared to my Christmas House, the Halloween House was much bigger,” said Willenberg. “In three weeks we had 16,000 people. I collected 65,000 euros just in one year in Germany.”
Willenberg describes himself as being picky when it comes to decorations. Dissatisfied with the shade of orange of the 6,000 lights he uses on his roof, he repainted them all by hand.
“This is a little bit stupid, right?” laughed Willenberg.
Willenberg plans to have Halloween House ready by Oct. 15, and run it from 5.30 to 9.30 p.m. until Nov. 1. During that time, there will be bratwurst on a bun and drinks available by donation. On Halloween night, there will be candy for trick-or-treaters.
Asked what brought Willenberg to Salmon Arm, he said he discovered and fell in love with the area in the late 1990s. But he said it was a life-long love of Elvis Presley that brought him to North America.
“When I was a kid, I listened to music from Elvis,” said Willenberg, who first visited Presley’s famous Graceland residence in Memphis in 1991.
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