Christmas display a labor of love for Apollo Beach family

Published on: December 17, 2014

If not for a shortage of imitation snow at local stores, the Petramalos’ entire front yard would be covered in the white stuff. Kevin Brady photo.

If not for a shortage of imitation snow at local stores, the Petramalos’ entire front yard would be covered in the white stuff.
Kevin Brady photo.


Laura Petramalo carries Christmas in her heart all year, so when December rolls around she can’t wait to get into the garage and unpack the boxes of elves, trees and garland. And there are plenty of boxes to unpack.

Decorating for the holidays is a tradition for the Apollo Beach family whose home at 6602 Blackfin Way in Cobia Cay has become a lighthouse for visitors looking to catch the Christmas spirit and see one of the largest and most intricate holiday displays in South Shore.

And always there, directing the show, is Laura, helping her mom and dad, Debbie and Mike, and her brother, Mike, put the Santas and elves in the right spot.

The Petramalos’ Halloween display drew hundreds of visitors to their home despite only recently having moved to the area from the Miami area this year. As word spreads about the Christmas decorations, hundreds more are expected to drive by and experience the display at the home, a stone’s throw from the beach.

Why spend hours on end decorating at no little expense?

“It’s for our princess,” said Debbie Petramalo, Laura’s mom. “She just loves all the decorations. She loves to go see decorations as well.”

Laura’s favorite part of the holiday?

“The Grinch,” she says. The family has four copies of the popular Jim Carrey movie. While she is a master at making cookies and cupcakes for Christmas, snuggling up with the holiday classic is what she enjoys most. “She knows it by heart,” Debbie said.

The family has been creating the holiday displays for years but their recent move made the Halloween display their first at their new home. The decorations drew more than 900 people and took the family 45 days to put together. It was all down and packed away within 24 hours of Halloween’s end, with the family already starting on their Christmas spectacular.

They did have a little help this year. “We brought in our handyman, Jose, from Miami to help for a couple of days,” Debbie said. The result is a display unrivaled in the area that draws no shortage of visitors.

“People stop and see the decorations, and I always encourage them to get out, come up and look around,” Debbie said. “They are sometimes hesitant to get out, but I tell them to come up and wander the property.”

The Petramalos have been going all out on holiday displays for more than 23 years, spending $3,000 to $5,000 a year on the shows and building up an inventory of Halloween and Christmas decorations that a department store or mall would struggle to rival.

“When the children were younger, we started to do this, and then over the years it has sort of morphed into a way to raise funds for charity,” said Mike Petramalo.

Their Christmas display last year benefited the United Way, with the public bidding for the right to come to the Petramalos’ home, have a dinner and view the display close-up. The result was a $4,000 day for the United Way.

“Through the years we have done it that way, but now it’s as much about empowering our daughter and son to carry out a tradition as time goes on,” he said.