CHARLOTTE — The force is strong at the home of Greg and Elizabeth Thomas and their neighbors don’t seem to mind.
Every Halloween, the couple transforms their front yard into a scene featuring characters from the “Star Wars” franchise, and each time, the display gets bigger and bigger.
The Thomases, who have lived on Kelford Lane in Heritage Woods for 12 years, are used to people stopping by to take pictures or compliment their decorations.
“We look forward to it every year,” said a neighbor walking his dog. “We aspire to have a theme like you.”
“It’s awesome,” said a boy across the street.
The couple said the decorations bring joy to the neighborhood and resonate with people of all ages races and ethnicities.
“Outside of liking ‘Star Wars,’ that’s why we do it every year,” Greg Thomas said.
At first, the display was small with just a few characters from the movies. Now, their front yard is home to over a dozen fan favorites like R2-D2, BB-8, Jabba the Hutt, Baby Yoda, stormtroopers, Tusken Raiders, Darth Maul, the Mandalorian, droids, Jawas and Han Solo in carbonite.
Emperor Palpatine guards the front door, making sure no rebels get inside.
“He’s more menacing in the daytime,” Greg said.
Lights and a fog machine add to the ambiance at night, but Greg said Halloween is when the display will really come alive. He plans to project one of the “Star Wars” movies onto the front window of his home.
Elizabeth Thomas is often revered for supporting her husband’s over-the-top Halloween tradition, but the reality is she’s just as into it. Elizabeth said she grew up watching “Star Wars” and became even more of a fan after meeting Greg.
Elizabeth said she admires how much time and effort he puts into making the characters and enjoys seeing them come to life.
“It’s a form of art,” Elizabeth said. “It’s creativity.”
“Everything is either a mask or things he pieced together, like little pieces and parts,” she added.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars on movie-quality “Star Wars” mannequins, Greg makes them himself using pieces he finds at thrift stores and online. The Mandalorian’s suit is made out of spray-painted hockey pads from Goodwill, Han Solo in carbonate is a mold off eBay and R2-D2 is an unwanted trash can found on the side of the road.
“We came around the corner and saw this white trash can and hit the brakes and we both yelled, ‘R2-D2!’” Greg said.
The “Star Wars” display is a year-round project, but it’s not Greg’s full-time job. He’s a voice-over artist who goes by the name “GregTheVoice.” Over the years, he’s worked with HBO, BMW, Time Warner Cable and the U.S. Department of Education. He can also be heard on national and local TV and radio auto commercials.
In his spare time, Greg wants to keep expanding his lineup of characters. He plans on making a 12-foot-tall TIE Fighter – one of the most recognizable ships in the Imperial Fleet – in time for next Halloween.
“It would be really cool if it looked like it crashed onto the roof of the house,” Elizabeth said.
Despite their love of “Star Wars,” the Thomases briefly considered pulling the plug on their decorations this year. They weren’t sure if anyone would be trick-or-treating due to COVID-19, but then thought, “So what?”
At least anyone who comes down Kelford Lane will have something to look at – “Star Wars” fan or not.
“With everything in the news and all the politics going on, we thought we’d do the ‘Star Wars’ stuff because it makes people happy,” Greg said. “Even if you don’t like ‘Star Wars,’ you’re not offended by it.”