The Christmas Ranch
We're talking serious Christmas decorating passion!
I picked up the phone and it was Dr. Mike Fuchs, the owner of The Christmas Ranch northeast of Cincinnati. I had heard about this place for years and all I could imagine was Santa riding a horse or cooking a giant steak over the campfire, which seemed a bit odd to this Christmas lover. Mike is such a delight to talk with, has a deep passion for Christmas and a real desire to help others. He loves outdoor Christmas decorations and leaves his display up yea
r-round. The more we talked the more I knew he was a PlanetChristmas type of person. He invited me to visit and I asked how about in a few weeks when I was close to the area? “Sure,” Mike said, “we’ll turn the lights on for you.” Seeing a giant Christmas display on June 30 w
as something I was not going to miss.
Some background on The Christmas Ranch is in order, though. With a little help from their website I found the over-the-top decorating got its start 20 years ago when Dr. Fuchs and his family turned their Symmes Township residence into an elaborate Christmas display. By 2006, their home had been featured on HGTV and crowds were becoming too big to handle. Looking for an excuse to expand his decorating passion Dr. Fuchs purchased the Dude Ranch in Morrow, OH, and converted it to The Christmas Ranch.
You read that right. He converted a cowboy dude ranch into a gigantic Christmas display with a bit of a western flavor.
His 110-acre ranch is ten minutes north of Kings Island just outside Cincinnati. It features a Christmas village with over 350,000 dancing lights, beautiful holiday music, retail shops, train displays, a small petting zoo, pictures with Santa and so much more.
I found the entrance to The Christmas Ranch that Wednesday evening a little after 5:00pm. Having the gigantic sign out by the main road made it easy to find. I cruised up the long, winding driveway and sure enough, at the top of the hill there was a gigantic Merry Christmas sign, a mega-tree and a huge Santa waving at me. A little further I saw several low slung buildings that looked a bit like a dude ranch except everything was painted in Christmas colors. I parked the truck and heard what could only be described as a series of hee-haws and totally out of place. Soon Mike Fuchs walked up and said I shouldn’t worry about Darryl the miniature donkey because he greets everyone the same way. Seems Darryl is part of the live nativity scene of the Christmas Ranch.
felt I had stepped into a Christmas catalog. I recognized commercial decorations from Bronners, LEDs from Costco, wireframes from Christmas Done Bright, light controllers from Animated Lighting and Light-O-Rama, mega-trees from Christmas Light Show, a light tunnel from Holiday Technologies and, and, and. Let’s just say Mike has assembled an incredible and eclectic display. I soon met his wife Debi and we started a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire operation.
Debi is in charge of the indoor decoration retail operation during the Christmas season and she takes her job very seriously. Imagine stepping into quaint Christmas themed shops, seeing stunning displays and just about every type of unique decoration you can imagine. You’ll find pieces seen in uptown New York City stores and items typically found only in the fancy catalogs. Everything is elegant, tasteful and just perfect. If you’re into the indoor stuff, take advantage of Debi’s classy style and incorporate her tastes into your home. Any profits made from sales go to charity.
We soon found mission control in the multipurpose gift shop, food and drink building. Even though I was visiting during the summer, I could easily imagine stepping into a warm retreat complete with tables to eat Christmas cookies and a big bar to sit and enjoy a hot cup of cider.
Cleverly hidden was a walk-in closet housing the master sound system powering all the outdoor speakers and a couple of computers. I saw Animated Lighting’s Animation Director sequencing software on one system and Light-O-Rama’s S2 software on the other. Animation Director is the show master and it triggers a Light-O-Rama ShowTime Director when necessary. Mike said he had about 25 Animated Lighting controllers and 100 Light-O-Rama controllers scattered around the ranch. I could only imagine how the place must look at night.
As we walked around in the bright sunshine that early evening I could see the above-ground stubs for many of the underground 4” and 8” conduits that were snaked everywhere. There were multiple 1200 amp transformers supplying plenty of power service wherever it was required, even though almost all the Christmas lights were LED based. Cleverly hidden in easy-to-access boxes were various light controllers, some connected wirelessly and others by outdoor rated data cables. When walking around you experienced the Christmas spirit, not the infrastructure that made it all work.
The Christmas Ranch has a building dedicated to indoor trains which turns any manly man into a kid. There’s a Christmas mega-tree forest, carousel, light tunnel, kids play area, and everything you need to entertain the family during the Christmas season. I could easily imagine standing around the fire pit and roasting marshmallows while enjoying the full Christmas season experience.
Finally the sun went down, the music began playing and the lights started dancing. I was in a Christmas wonderland the last day of June and had found heaven. Incredible.
This article was included in the September 2010 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
By Chuck Smith