The Knulls - CSPM

The Knulls

For 43 years, the holiday lights were always a little bit brighter at John and Joan “Jo” Knull’s home on East Dale Street. The couple began their Christmas tradition in 1970 by displaying a Santa, sleigh, and three reindeer built by John’s father. Over the years, they created a showstopping collection of homemade décor: ice skating bears, paintbrush-wielding elves, rotating Christmas tree, seven-foot tall Ferris wheel, Santa’s workshop, and the snowman featured in this exhibit. For decades, a visit to the Knull’s Christmas display was a cherished family tradition for many families.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

For 43 years, the holiday lights always were a little brighter at John and Joan “Jo” Knull’s East Dale Street home. The couple began their Christmas tradition in 1970 by assembling in their yard a Santa, sleigh, and three reindeer built by John’s father. Over the years, they added to it a menagerie of homemade décor: ice skating bears, paintbrush-wielding elves, a rotating Christmas Tree, a seven foot tall Ferris wheel complete with Santa, and the snowman with moving arms featured in the exhibit.

Residents and visitors to Colorado Springs enjoyed the Knulls’ display from the Saturday after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day with extended hours on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Each area of their yard had a theme: the front yard with religious pieces, the backyard featuring Santa’s workshop, while the side yard transformed into a winter wonderland. Over their driveway hung a massive arched “Merry Christmas” sign while candy canes and candles dotted the yard.

During the off-season, the display took up a third of the Knull’s garage. Throughout the year, the Knulls would plan and create new decor with setup beginning on November 1st. The couple worked together to make each decoration, reusing materials they found in electronic shops, flea markets, and junkyards. John, a machinist and welder for the city, fabricated their creations while Joan created the papier-mâché pieces and painted their designs. In 1987, they added their first motorized feature. The couple added a new component each year and later every other year until 2006 when they no longer had space.

The home attracted thousands of visitors, both locals and out-of-town guests. Knulls won awards for best lights from KRDO. But for the Knulls, the true reward was the Christmas spirit and appreciation of the community. People would thank them for their “Christmas house” throughout the year. The Knulls received Christmas cards from people from other states who saw the display while visiting family. For some locals, it became a multi-generational experience; people who had first viewed the display as kid now brought their own children.

December 2013 marked the last year of the Christmas display after John passed away the previous April. With the help from family and friends, Joan put the display up as a tribute to John. To thank the Knulls for sharing their holiday spirit, the community came together to surprise Joan with a celebration of thanks. To help keep John Knull’s memory alive, Joan gave away the decorations she and John so lovingly created. Pieces ended up with several neighbors, a local church, the couple’s children, and the museum.

Generously Submitted by Caitlin Sharpe, CSPM Registrar

Collection Gallery

Additional Sources: