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COLUMN: Handy baker brings joy to community with holiday displays

TO CARE ABOUT bringing happiness and joy to youngsters, you have to be young at heart.

No one fits that bill better than Paul Glancy of Paul’s Bakery and Paul’s Winter Wonderland, whose amazing Christmas yard display draws crowds each holiday season.

Last year at this time, the entrepreneur who learned to cook in the Navy even turned his bakery on Lafayette Boulevard in the Fredericksburg into a Halloween wonderland.

There may have been ghouls, zombies and other scary creatures concealed in a walk-through Halloween adventure in the bowels of the bakery. But out front, the 67-year-old was at the wheel of his special Halloween train, kid-size cars made from barrels that he pulls with a golf cart, bringing joy to young passengers.

By the end of next month, those barrels decked out as ghosts and bats will be covered with brown fur and have both heads and tails attached to look like reindeer, with Santa leading things off up front.

People who see the special events don’t know how much work Paul, his wife, Sandra, and their staff put into it all.

For example, for a special 40th anniversary celebration this summer, the jolly elf that is Glancy worked for weeks constructing a series of children’s games.

From a doughnut bean-bag toss to a prize wheel to a unique squirt gun game featuring Ping-Pong balls painted like doughnut holes, youngsters were treated to hand-built games of wood, plastic and other materials.

“My motto is simple: If I don’t wow you, I haven’t done my job,” said Glancy, noting that he means that for work, for play and for life.

He loved the Halloween haunt the bakery staged last year to help kick of the local Toys for Tots campaign, though the granddad in him worried a bit that some of the outfits may have scared the littlest visitors.

He did think it was neat that his daughter, Mary Katherine Monahan, his former cake decorator, used the cake spray decorating tool to apply paint to make dozens of helpers look ghostly and ghastly, herself included.

But not much is more dear than Paul’s Winter Wonderland to the baker now in good health following cancer treatments this past year.

That’s what Glancy has named the bright, expansive explosion of lighted displays that fills the yard, trees and seemingly the sky itself in his Confederate Ridge front yard.

Yes, he’s got a few pieces in the display that he has bought here and there, along with a number of small lighted trees.

But the lion’s share of the lighted shapes were built by Glancy, who over the years has perfected a process for making shapes from PVC pipe and then outlining them with rope lights to bring figures to life.

“My theme is a gingerbread Christmas,” he says of the display he’ll begin putting out tomorrow, aimed at being up and lighted for the first time Thanksgiving evening.

New this year: a 16-foot gingerbread man and woman that, through the magic of a light controller, appear to be waving; gingerbread boys sledding and phased lighting that make trees all over the display seem to twirl in sequence.

Like everything the handy Glancy cobbles together, the lighted figures in his yard are an interesting process.

With large ovens at his fingertips, the baker, whose mornings making doughnuts start at 2 a.m., realized quickly that the plastic pipes that form the frames were easy to bend into shapes after being heated to 200 degrees.

So he did that, then used a piece of plywood with nails in the patterns he wanted to bend the pipe into the desired shapes.

“For the big gingerbread people, they were too big for that board so I used large pieces of cardboard and bent the pipe around buckets of doughnut filling,” he said. “I just keep working at something until I figure out how to do it.”

Glancy, who has his bakery up for sale, expects to work with whoever buys the business to teach them the recipes that come as part of the purchase. So no, there won’t be an end to the Paul’s doughnuts most of us have come to love.

But Glancy said he does look forward to having more time for projects like his Christmas display.

And being part of an organization of holiday yard decorators called Planet Christmas, whose regional members he has hosted in Fredericksburg.

“Seeing the kids’ eyes light up when they come by at Christmas are what make it special for me,” he said. “I am still just a kid at heart.”

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415