The Grinch gives back Christmas


Van Crawford brightens Channing Way with lights, music and Seussian mirth

By Nancy Vigran Reporter for the Sun-Gazette

(Note: Italics indicate excerpts from Dr. Seuss’ story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”)


  • It wasn’t that the Grinch hated Christmas, that wasn’t the reason,
  • The Visalia Grinch had to give it up for last season.
  • He was moving, felt ill, and his energy ceased,
  • But, one Christmas without friends, and he reemerged to the east.

For a decade, the Visalia Grinch, aka Van Crawford, had entertained locals by lighting up his house and spending his December evenings outside. And, while many put on light displays, he took his a step further putting his lights to music, which aired on the radio.

The idea, he said, stemmed from his viewing a video he saw on the Internet from the Wizards of Winter in Colorado Springs, Colo., who each year put their Christmas light display to music.

“I had to try to do something like that,” he said.

Van Crawford reemerges as The Grinch in Exeter. Photo by Nancy Vigran

Van Crawford reemerges as The Grinch in Exeter. Photo by Nancy Vigran

At first he dressed as Santa, but after his after someone slashed his 5-foot inflatable Grinch, he decided to change his costuming. He found a Grinch mask and coat. His mom made his leggings and hands, and a new Grinch was born.

People began offering him money to fray the cost of the lighting, but that wasn’t what he wanted.

“I’m not about that,” he said. “It’s about giving, hope, and love, all that mushy stuff.”

Crawford simply wanted to express his gratitude to his community and to give back. So, he took the funds and gave them to FoodLink to help feed the homeless. A couple years later, he teamed up with the Visalia Rescue Mission.

“They’re truly rescuing people through Christ,” he said. And, he was impressed with their success rate.

“It was a marriage that worked perfectly,” he said of their partnership.

But, two years ago, Crawford said the Grinch was done.

  • It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
  • It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
  • But, I think that the most likely reason of all,
  • May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Turns out that wasn’t the reason. He was having some health issues, was very busy at work, and was missing out on holiday time with his family. Last year, on Dec. 20, he moved to Exeter. There were no lights, and there was no Grinch.

“We really, really missed it last year,” he said.

  • And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say,
  • That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.
  • And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through,
  • And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!

And so, the lights came out this year, albeit a somewhat smaller display. And the Grinch, well, he visits, but on fewer days now.

The Grinch has been prowling his front yard the past few weekends, but with only days until Christmas, he’ll be there even more.

His neighbors not only accept the Grinch, but seem to love it, he said. Across the street more lights have gone up. And, others say they want to join in next year.

Past visitors of the display have found him here. The Mellos drove over from Hanford. Courtney Mello had been to the Visalia Grinch’s home several years ago, but her husband, Chad, and their five-year-old son, Blake, were not familiar with it.

“It’s definitely worth the drive,” Chad Mello said.

“It’s cool,” Blake said. “He’s kind of friendly and kind of scary,” he said of the Grinch.

“He scares adults in Whoville, but not the kids.”

Indeed, in the tale, Cindy Lou Who befriends the Grinch and helps him find what Christmas is all about.

  • Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
  • Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!

The Grinch’s house, at 323 Channing Way in Exeter, is lite up nightly between 5 and 9 p.m. through New Year’s Day. For accompanying music tune in to 92.5 FM.

The Grinch, himself, can be found at home from Friday, Dec. 21 through Christmas Day during the same hours. Stop by, sing along, take a selfie with the Grinch and nab a candy cane.

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