Popular Christmas display in jeopardy after jerks twice steal characters
Update to the update 12/3: The missing Snoopy cutout was left on Leines’ property line last night, along with a note and some money. Leines said he has not read the note as it was turned over to county and town investigators for fingerprinting.
Updated 12/2. Woody has been found! An Abington resident found Woody lying on the side of Route 18 the morning after he was stolen. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she stood the cutout up in her yard in case someone was looking for it, but no one claimed it, so Woody remained leaning against her house for the past week. After seeing yesterday’s Abington News article she dropped Woody off with Abington Police who said they would return it to Leines. Spongebob, C-3PO, and a stormtrooper remain at large. The Woody cutout was missing a foot and had a damaged arm. Leines has already made a replacement Woody and it is in his yard.
Every year, Scott Leines spends hours and hours putting out more than 150 hand-painted wooden characters in his Lake Street front lawn, hooking up more than 25,000 Christmas lights, and precisely programming a concert’s worth of visual lighting cues to create a special holiday experience for families across Abington.
But the popular display is in jeopardy after midnight thieves twice stole characters from Leines’ yard before the Advent wreaths even came out.
“One more incident and I’m taking the characters in for the year,” Leines said. “At this rate, there will be nothing left by Christmas.”
Early this past Sunday morning, a car with three scrooges in it pulled up to the display. Two hopped out, grabbed the wooden Spongebob Squarepants, C-3PO, and Stormtrooper characters, tossed them in the car and drove off. The previous weekend, the same car with the same gremlins swiped cutouts of Toy Story Woody and Snoopy.
Leines said he didn’t realize anything was missing after the first theft until he stood next to the Toy Story section and realized Woody was missing. He then went back inside, checked the footage from the surveillance cameras on his property, and saw the theft.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Leines, a father of three, and owner of Turf Irrigation Solutions. “I put in all that time, time I could be spending with my family — and I don’t have a problem with that — but to take stuff away from kids, and from other people who come to see it, it ruins it for everybody. It isn’t fair.”
Both incidents have been reported to Abington police. Leines thinks the night bandits may be checking the town’s Facebook pages, because after he posted about the first incident, they came at a different time and from a different direction the second time.
A GoFundMe page has been set up, with half the money earmarked for whomever either helps recover the stolen pieces or identifies the meisterbergers. The other half will be given to the new “Abington Is Lit” holiday-light decorating contest.
Leines’ family has been putting out Christmas displays for more than 40 years. His dad started the first display the year he was born in Rockland.
“Originally it was a Santa in a sleigh and reindeer, and Winnie the Pooh,” Leines said. “It was my first Christmas and it just expanded every year since then.”
The display has always reflected the popular childhood characters of the time. The display, for example, now features characters from the Avengers, Star Wars, and Inside Out, as well as more classics such as Goofy, Pluto, and Donald Duck.
The family moved for a few years to Plymouth, but settled on Loganberry Drive in 1988, where the growing display drew even more visitors down the cul de sac off Hancock Street. He moved to the striking, two-story, wood-shingled home in 2016, bringing the holiday display to the edge of Island Grove Pond.
It takes Leines three to four days to set the entire display up. Usually he adds a character or two a year, but this year he added 21 new characters.
“People are sort of looking for this this year because there’s not much else to do,” he said.
The characters can be made quickly — Woody is once again overseeing the roundup on the lawn. The musical light show — which can be heard over a car radio — takes longer to update. Leines said it can take 8 hours to precisely program the light movements that accompany one minute of music.
Leines never thought he’d be still be spending another December re-setting wooden characters in his lawn.
“I thought I was going to try and stop once we reached 40 years, but so many people drive by and enjoy it, we kept it going,” he said.