The story behind Dayton’s unicorn house

You’ll find holiday magic (with hooves and horns) in city’s Belmont neighborhood

If you’ve been in the Belmont neighborhood lately, you may have caught a glimpse of a family of unicorns frolicking in an enchanted, sparkling forest. This magical wonderland is made possible thanks to the creativity and holiday cheer of Dayton residents Chris and Natasha Croft.

“We got the idea on a 2018 trip to the Biltmore House in North Carolina,” said Chris Croft. They have lights that hang straight down from the trees and we thought immediately about recreating it at home because we have several trees in our front yard.”

In 2018, the couple started with one unicorn and several strands of lights. The following year, the unicorns and lights doubled. In 2020, the unicorn family has grown to include two adults and three baby unicorns — as well as around 4,000 lights hanging from the trees and covering the ground. “I love light displays from growing up in Ludlow Falls, which used to have a huge light display under the bridge that unfortunately hasn’t been done in several years now. So, having my own display is a way of reliving that nostalgia,” said Chris.

How has Dayton responded to this growing family of unicorn neighbors?

“I get stopped constantly when I’m coming home from work — we had to stop letting our dogs out front,” said Chris, laughing. “Mostly people just want us to know they enjoy the light display and look forward to what we’ve got in store for next year.”

They even receive letters and postcards in their mailbox from fans of the display conveying their appreciation and encouragement. “Especially in a year like 2020, we’re glad people find our light display so uplifting,” said Chris.

In the future, the Crofts are hoping to add more lights, possibly wrapping the trees with additional strands. “There really is no limit and we don’t have an end goal in mind — we could even double everything again” said Chris.

The Crofts have entered the home in the City of Dayton’s Holiday Outdoor Lights Contest, where people can vote online Thursday, Dec. 17, through Sunday, Dec. 20. The winner receives a trophy, bragging rights, and some Dayton swag.

Want to share your photos of the unicorn display? Check out @UnicornsofBelmont on Facebook and Instagram.

Neighborhood light displays have more than unicorns

Of course, Natasha and Chris aren’t alone in their holiday cheer — several Belmont neighbors have light displays ranging from traditional holiday lights to a hilarious skiing Santa accompanied by Uncle Sam in a canoe.

Also impressive is a Christmas tree adorned with thousands of white lights. The owner of the tree is Dave Drerup, who has lived in the Dayton area for nearly 30 years. He started decorating this tree when it was just two feet tall. Nowadays it takes him around 15 hours to light the tree each year.

What motivates him to keep it going, even during the pandemic, is all of the letters of gratitude he’s received over the years. He said, “I hope it brings a sense of hope into the new year, that it’s going to get better. We just have to protect the ones we love.”

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