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Halloween horrors for your home

Decor: Large or small, now’s the season to decorate for Halloween

Posted: October 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Dept. 56 haunted railroad items on display at Green Thumb International in Newhall. Station $120, Platform $55, Engine $70, Dining Car $55, Sleeper Car $55, Caboose $55.

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Each year in early September, Green Thumb International nursery in Newhall hosts its Halloween Grand Opening event, and takes on a seasonally-festive atmosphere with its impressive display of Halloween decorations.

One corner of the large building is taken over by ghouls, goblins, bats, spooks and sundry scares. And a very unique aspect of this is the section of Dept. 56 Halloween miniatures.

These highly-prized miniatures include everything from railroad stations to haunted houses to used car lots, and all are designed with less fright and more whimsy than what we’ve come to expect from Halloween in recent years.

Even more impressive is the way the miniatures are displayed by Laura Gullas, with each set against a spooky and fun background, complete with accessory items, such as tiny gnarled trees, working street lamps or small skeletons sitting on benches.

“A lot of it is out of my imagination,” Gullas said.

Add to this spooky “mood” lighting, and you have a bit of an amusement park attraction, suitable for family viewing.

“We have a lot of people who love to celebrate Halloween,” Gullas said. “They enjoy walking through to see what we have and to take our ideas. I welcome anybody to come in, take pictures and copy my setup.” And she added that the staff at Green Thumb is also happy to offer advice on how to display your Dept. 56 and other Halloween items. In fact, Gullas noted, on Oct. 23 artist Cynthia Markle, who designs Dept. 56 accessories, will be at Green Thumb from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to sign Dept. 56 accessories you own or purchase that day.

Dept. 56
Gullas said she has been putting up the Dept. 56 miniatures for five years, and Dean Ritter had been doing it for 10 years before that. As a result, viewing the miniatures has become a tradition for many SCV families. Beyond that, many Dept. 56 collectors come in to see what’s new, and new “collectors” are being created all the time.

New this year are “The Retching Pumpkin Diner,” “Grimsley Retirement Home” and a Caboose ($55) to completes the “Rickety Railroad” series.

“The ‘Foggy Point Platform’ ($135) remains the big seller because of its versatility, lighting and fog effect,” Gullas said. “It can accommodate a readymade Dept. 56 house or your own design.”

Miniature layouts
The Dept. 56 miniatures are a lot of fun, such as “Rusty’s Used Cars” ($125), with a man in a convertible revolving above the building. But Gullas’ miniature layouts always enhance the “haunted” effect and often add humor, as well. Consider miniature skeletons sitting on benches, wearing hats and with their leg bones crossed. And she makes use of all types of accessories, in any condition.

“I always try to utilize every broken part or house piece I find that fits my design ideas,” Gullas said.

True to this, she showed me a small, broken street lamp that was still operational, just toppled over. It went perfectly with the run-down look of the haunted house, itself.

“I’ve been known to use stir sticks from our neighborhood Starbucks. Don’t be limited by lack of imagination.”

Gullas said she is available five days a week to answer your Dept. 56 questions. “Dean Ritter and Evelyn Adams can also assist you. Dean has lots of ideas, as well as knowledge of the product line.”

Gullas said Green Thumb stocks three sizes of Styrofoam as well as Design Master paints suitable for coloring your personal designs.

Other items
Aside from Dept. 56, the Halloween décor items at Green Thumb are many and varied.

Halloween light strings are a specialty, with many types you won’t find in other stores, and prices ranging from $15.99 to $19.99 and up. These light strings include witch lanterns, bats on Jack-o-lanterns, large bats and many others.

There are skulls of several sizes, spiders of several sizes, Halloween trees, witches in all shapes and sizes, scary wall hangings and, well, more than you can imagine.

“Some people really do enjoy Halloween. I’m happy to be one of them. It’s one of the most fun times of year,” Gullas said. But she noted that some items are already selling out and that, by the week before Halloween, selection may be limited. So make your purchases now.

“The day after Halloween we discount many of the items — but not the Dept. 56,” she said.

Green Thumb International is located at 23734 Newhall Ave., Newhall, 91321. The phone number is (661) 259-1072. Visit

Note: Green Thumb’s Christmas open house will be held on Nov. 12. By then the Christmas decoration section, complete with Dept. 56 Christmas miniatures, with be fully set up.


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