Tonya Tilson and her family are full of the Halloween spirit.
”We have a kid-friendly cemetery they get to walk through on one side of the yard,” Tilson said. “The other side has some skeletons and (inflatables) in it. It’s a pretty eventful front yard.”
Tilson said her motivation has always been to make the display fun for neighborhood children.
Tilson said she and her husband moved to the Woodland Springs neighborhood in 2003. At the time, the couple didn’t have children, so the display started off with a few decorations.
“Then, as we had a child and more kids moved into the neighborhood, it’s progressed into a pretty large theme,” Tilson said.
The couple’s son, Cooper, 14, is a Carmel High School freshman.
“He has gone from the trick-or-treating to helping decorate,” Tilson said. “We have a family across the street that has seven kids and so they interact with us and help.”
Tilson recently retired as a Lawrence Police Dept. officer, and her husband, Clark, is a a Carmel Police Dept. officer.
“My husband enjoys building some of the items that go into our little graveyard,” said Tilson, who said her basement is full of Halloween decor.
Tilson said they begin to put the decorations up the first week of October. She gets help from 8-year-old Jude Hogan, from the family across the street.
“He’s our little assistant,” Tilson said. “This year, he created his own little cemetery, and my husband helped him design it.”
Hogan set up a countdown to let Tilson know when it was time to decorate.
“Then on Halloween night, we add a fog machine and a few more decorations we put out,” Tilson said. “We don’t make it gross or ghoulish. It’s kid friendly.”
Even before all the decorations were put up, Tilson had visits from kids walking through the cemetery.
“Cooper and Jude like to hang out in the cemetery. They don’t scare the little kids,” Tilson said. “But if it’s older kids or the parents, they will (scare them). When the parents come through, they’re caught off-guard, so it’s pretty comical.”