Christmas display comes from small beginnings

Sarah Perry
Staff Writer

Dan Berry is known for the large amount of Christmas decorations he puts on display on his front yard each year, but he didn't always put together such a large showing.
When he and his wife, Lena, were living in Sheridan, he would put up a string of lights around their home.
Their Christmas display grew when their neighbors adopted a child from Russia. After a year-long process, the boy was scheduled to come to America in December.
Lena suggested they put up more decorations for the child, according to Dan.
So, the one string of lights grew to five or six plastic toy soldiers and a wreath along in addition to the lights.
At the time when the child moved to Arkansas, he was between 2 or 2 1/2 years old.
The boy would run across the street to see the decorations, Dan added.
Now the Berry's yard at 1827 Arkansas 5 in Benton is filled with numerous plastic decorations, including approximately 167 lighted toy soldiers.
Dan has not been able to get an exact count of how many soldiers he has collected.
The idea for the toy soldiers came from a display he saw between Sheridan and Shannon Hills while traveling. At the home, there were about 30 or so soldiers on display.
Dan mentioned that eventually, he would like to have 200 soldiers. Since stores no longer sell toy soldier decorations, Berry usually purchases such items online and at flea markets.
Many people in the community have also helped him to reach his goal.
He has received several decorations as gifts from people who know him and those who have just seen the display.
One year when he came home on New Years Day, he noticed something was off with his display. When he looked closely, he noticed a new toy soldier decoration. The soldier had a tag around his neck that read "a new recruit."
Dan said he continues to show off the Christmas decorations because he does not want to let down the community.
He has heard many stories from residents about their experiences seeing the display each year.
"You can't stop now," Dan said. "People are expecting this."
Dan said the decorations will stay on display until Three King's Day (Epiphany).
Displaying the soldiers takes about four "serious days" of work.
Dan is responsible for putting up the decoration outdoors, but Lena is responsible for decorating inside the Berry's home.
The indoor display includes a large snowman collection, two Christmas trees and even a flamingo-themed Christmas tree in the bathroom. A large giraffe statue also receives a Santa hat for the holiday season.
"Christmas is a big deal," Dan said.
Lena works as a piano teacher and Dan is a cabinet maker by trade.
The couple moved to Sheridan from New Jersey before eventually calling Benton home.
The Berrys have lived at their Arkansas 5 home since around 2005.