‘I want kids to have a sense of normalcy this year’: Brandon man sets up annual, elaborate Halloween display despite COVID-19 challenges

Something Good

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The year 2020 hasn’t been a treat, but a Brandon homeowner has a few tricks up his sleeve to keep Halloween scary for all the right reasons.

Thanks to the pandemic, this year’s been spooky, and strange. But if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed it’s Kenny Cruz’s elaborate Halloween decorations. The veteran says despite the weird year, he’s bringing some normalcy to the neighborhood he’s lived in for decades. Normal for him, anyway.

Drive down Kenny’s street and you’ll see ghouls, creepy scarecrows, possessed dogs, and everything in between. His mechanized over-the-top display has been a work in progress for 20 years.

“I started off with one or two mannequins, and as each year goes by, it gets better and better,” Kenny said, adding that he tends to stock up on skeletons and other terrifying specimens each year.

He starts the set-up process on Sept. 1 so that his display is up and running on Oct. 1. Kenny has multiple sclerosis and says that sometimes he’s able to work on the display for brief periods of time. Other days, he’ll be out in his front yard with his creepy craft project for several hours a day. And while neighborhood kids often offer to lend him a hand, he’s got his process down to a weird science.

He had to take extra precautions this year because he’s at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications. But he didn’t consider taking 2020 off.

“I want kids to have a sense of normalcy this year, and be able to forget about the pandemic,” he said. “I want them to have good memories, that’s what it’s all about.”

Kenny understands that going door-to-door may give parents a fright, but the good thing about his display is that it’s easily enjoyed from a distance. In fact, most years there’s a line of cars down the street, waiting to drive by.

“We ordered Chinese food one year, and the driver was too scared to come to the front door,” he laughed.

For children who decide to stop by Kenny’s on Oct. 31, he’ll be handing out candy, although this year he’s packaging them in sandwich baggies for safe grab-and-go treats. If you do stop by, Kenny will be behind the scenes, making sure his frightening display operates perfectly.

If you’d like to drive by the Cruz house, it’s located at 1720 Southwind Drive in Brandon. But, be sure to get there before Halloween. Kenny says the whole thing comes down on Nov. 1, so that he has plenty of time to set up his Christmas display.

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