Longtime Wilton resident and local celebrity Walter Schalk has transformed his property on Drum Hill Rd. into the magical wintery “Wally’s Wonderland” for yet another year, regardless of any challenges of the COVID pandemic.
Schalk’s father decorated their childhood home when he was a kid and Schalk wanted to continue the tradition, so he began putting up extravagant decorations for the holidays around 30 years ago with his cousin Charlie Micha.
Schalk initially started decorating for the students in his eponymousWalter Schalk School of Dance, which he started in 1957. After three decades of decorating, Schalk now looks forward to it just as much as the kids do.
When Micha passed away a few years ago, Schalk spontaneously recruited Wilton residents Don Warner and Wayne Ranhosky for the job when after meeting them at a coffee shop.
Warner and Ranhosky typically start the three-week process of setting up around Thanksgiving. Schalk described his role as the one who makes the final placement decisions, joking, “I guess you could say I’m the choreographer.” This year’s decorations were officially finished on Friday, Dec. 11.
It wasn’t without some external pressure to get the decorations up early. In fact, Schalk received a phone call from a Wilton resident last week urging him to keep the tradition going.
“One father called me and said ‘I get really angry because if I don’t take my child to see your lights every night, he won’t go to bed!’”
Now that he is retired, Schalk says decorating his house is one way to keep in touch with the kids from the dance school, but he gets a lot of support from adults as well. Schalk told a story of a woman who knocked on his door one year to thank him for his lights display. Schalk recounted that she said, “I have a stressful corporate job in New York City, and every night when I drive home and pass your house, it makes my stress go away”.
You can visit “Wally’s Wonderland” at 67 Drum Hill Rd.
Where are Wilton’s Other Holiday Lights?
Lights that lift spirits are more important this year than ever during these gloomy winter months that are now coupled with pandemic isolation. The Wilton’s Bright Lights effort was started to encourage residents to decorate the outside of their houses to show unity and foster connection during these metaphorically and literally dark times.
GOOD Morning Wilton has mapped a list of Wilton homes with notable light displays. Residents are encouraged to post about decorated houses they come across on the “Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend & Wilton’s Bright Lights” Facebook page. Feel free to post other locations in the comments here too.
Corner of Belden Hill and Windy Ridge
67 Drum Hill Road
25 Friendlee Lane
14 Middlebrook Farm Road
154 Mountain Road
270 Westport Rd. (Hanukkah Lights)
18 Salem Road
46 Ground Pine Road
137 Linden Tree Road
55 Ledgewood Drive
14 Stonecrop Lane
72 Nod Hill Road
15 Heather Lane
15 Azalea Ln.
10 Bhasking Ridge Rd.
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