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Farewell Frankenstein: After nearly 40 years this East Van house won't be decorated for holidays

The family who's rented there for years is moving

Odds are if you've driven into the city via East 12th Avenue you've seen decorations of some sort set up at the intersection with Semlin Drive.

Long the home of the Ballard/Pedersen family, the bright and colourful decorations have been a staple of the neighourhood. However, the decorating is ending after nearly 40 years as the residents prepare to move out; the house, which they were renting has been sold to new people says Erik Pedersen. That means one last decoration — a giant Frankenstein with a good-bye note to the neighbourhood.

That goodbye has garnered online attention, as people share memories and disappointment that it won't be back. Hundreds have reacted to Pedersen's Facebook post, and photos of the goodbye note have shown up on other platforms.

His parents (Theresa and Glenn Ballard) are the ones who've set things up for decades, with varying amounts of help from the five kids in the family. In recent years Pedersen has taken the lead, and it's fitting that Frankenstein is used to say goodbye, as the decorations started with Halloween. His mom, who often put things up inside, took to decorating the outside with windsocks in the 80s.

"Slowly the collection grew every year because my mom is smart and knew when to buy," Pedersen says. "In the last 10 years, it really exploded because I started helped out."

It became a local landmark (during certain times of years) and a highlight for kids.

Each holiday has its own challenges. Halloween night the family went out to get things into the backyard once it got late enough.

"That basically comes from, Halloween back in the 80s, was a little more rambunctious," Pedersen says.

But it was worth it, from the compliments and smiling children. Some years upwards of 300 trick-or-treaters would visit the front door and people would drive to come see the house. As a kid Pedersen took pride in the family tradition.

Christmas was a whole different can of worms, with things set up longer and lights and electricity to worry about.

"LEDs have made it a little easier, but we used to blow fuses all the time," he says. "With the old lights you couldn't run too many of them at the same time."

That meant lots of problem-solving, from storage (lots of nooks in the 3-story house and shed are housing off-season inflatables or lights), to dealing with rainy weather, to power supply, to vandalism. Once, when the family was eating Eater dinner a six-foot inflatable rabbit either sparked to life and hopped off or was stolen. Now things are wired down, but inflatables are still slashed.

"My parents would never say it, but the quite impressive," Pedersen says. "We didn't grow up with money."

The big ones are Christmas and Halloween (Pedersen's favourite), but there are at least eight different events they put things up for, including St. Patrick's and Valentine's days. Since it started the family has set up dozens and dozens if not hundreds of displays.

"Pride is basically just a couple flags that go up, same with Canada Day," he says, adding with a laugh. "Some are much easier to do than others."

The family doesn't hold any ill-will to the new homeowners (Pedersen notes if he bought a house, he'd want to live there as well), but it does mean for the first time since the Canucks terrible 'V' jerseys Pedersen's parents (and Pedersen who's currently living with them) are looking for a new home.

"My mom hasn't had to look for a place for 40 years and rent has changed a lot over the years," he says, pointing to the hot housing market Vancouver's become famous for.

One big thing they're looking for is space since the decorations are coming with them.

"We've looked at few places and we've said no because we can't decorate," he says. "It's definitely part of who are."

While they'd like to stay in the neighbourhood, it seems unlikely.

"Ideally we'd love to stay in this neighbourhood, it's where we were raised," Pedersen says, noting his siblings haven't gone too far with one only a couple blocks over, another on the Island and another in Langley.

They're considering Burnaby and Port Coquitlam. Wherever they go, though, the neighbourhood is going to get more colourful.