Unlike Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A.J. Vultaggio volunteered to take over his family’s outside holiday decorating duties at the age of 14.
“My parents love to come out and see all the decorations up,” says Vultaggio, who is majoring in manufacturing engineering technology and product development at Macomb. “I know they have said, ‘Instead of doing drugs or playing video games, he decorates.’”
This year’s Halloween display, spanning his family’s home as well as those of two neighbors, stopped passersby (including a Macomb Township Chronicle photographer and reporter) in their tracks. He has also created displays featuring the Easter Bunny, Uncle Sam and a proud pilgrim of a turkey. But Vultaggio labors the most over the one undertaken the weekend after Thanksgiving that transforms the front lawn of his family’s Macomb Township home into a wonderland as dazzling as anything found at the North Pole.
“I put all of the decorations from lights to yard ornaments (for three houses) up myself. It takes countless hours, but it is completely worth it,” says Vultaggio, “Whenever I am not at work or doing school work, I can always be found outside decorating.”
As much as holiday decorating is a family tradition, so, too, is Macomb. Vultaggio’s mother Melanie earned an associate of applied science in nursing and physical therapy and dad Andy, as well as an uncle, earned associate of applied science degrees from the college, while his maternal grandfather taught special machine design.
“I was interested in going to Macomb for many years and had heard very good things about its engineering programs,” says Vultaggio, who graduated from L’Anse Creuse High School North last June. “My experience so far has gone very smoothly.”
Also “smooth” are the edges his grandfather taught him to hone in the workshop where they huddled together over woodworking projects, with Vultaggio beginning his apprenticeship at the age of six.
“My nonno (grandfather in Italian) spent countless hours teaching me how to scroll saw, carve and paint,” relates Vultaggio. “The two of us would spend as much time as we could together. We enjoyed each other’s company and we were always working on some type of project, which usually had something to do with Christmas.”
A quarter of the decorations that grace his family’s home, which Vultaggio shares with his seven-year-old sister, parents and grandmother, are of his own design. For inspiration, he takes trips to Frankenmuth whenever he has the chance.
“Other than Bronner’s, I get a lot of my ideas yearlong while daydreaming about my plans for the next season,” offers Vultaggio. “Christmas has always played such a big role in my life and while I am decorating, it brings back a lot of wonderful memories that I have made with my parents and grandparents.”