Family builds 'Hogwarts Castle' in front yard to lift neighborhood's spirits during Halloween

Jenny Miller
·2-min read

2020 has been a year filled with uncertainty, but one man wanted to remind his neighbors that magic can still exist. As many parents are looking for ways to make Halloween celebrations safe, Joel Pace of Austin, Texas, has figured out a way to carry out a beloved holiday tradition while keeping things socially distant for COVID-19 health and safety purposes.

This Halloween tradition goes back to 2015 when Pace created a Harry Potter-themed decoration on the front porch of his home in Austin, Texas. Although it began as a simple surprise for his family’s enjoyment, over the years it’s grown into a neighborhood “must-see,” and an attraction that their community looks forward to visiting each October.

When Pace’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, this endeavor became a passion project and he started to out-do himself with each passing Halloween season. Decorations and massive displays brought joy to his wife, his son and the whole neighborhood, but also became an avenue to raise money for local charities.

“Being able to transition it away from her cancer treatment to supporting local children’s charities has been a really rewarding experience,” Pace tells Yahoo Life.

This year, neighbors were anxious to know whether the at-home Harry Potter experience would be possible amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pace decided it was more important than ever to continue the tradition.

“Everybody is craving some sense of normalcy. We want to think things are getting better and feel like not everything’s been taken away,” Pace explains.

Although this year’s Hogwarts Experience will be different from previous years and is no longer an immersive walk-through with big crowds, Pace has high hopes and big plans to make it as special as possible.

In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, Pace transformed the original immersive experience into a drive-by, creating a scale model of Hogwarts Castle right in his front yard.

In addition, he decided to keep up the display beyond Halloween and plans to modify the decorations to match upcoming holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, as they near.

Pace believes this is his opportunity to remind his community that despite difficult times, there’s always a way to provide for those in need. This year, the Hogwarts Experience is sponsoring local Austin charities.

“This is an opportunity for us to remind everybody to remember others and to support charities even when times are hard like this,” he says. “There’s always somebody else who needs your help.”

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