Lisa Victory jokes she felt like Goldilocks when she was looking for a house.

Victory, who grew up in Buckhead and graduated from the University of Georgia, tried homes in west Cobb and inside the Perimeter before settling with her husband in a “forever home” on Vernon North Drive in 2000. She said it offered a perfect fit of community, quality schools and family involvement.

Now she and her husband are known throughout the neighborhood for something quite different: their holiday display. Victory says she lives in “the Santa roof house.”

“My husband stages the back side of our roof with a scene that looks like Santa slammed into the roof,” Victory said, “complete with runway lights, a crashed Santa, Rudolph looking for said Santa and presents strewn all over the place.”

Victory said friends tell her the Santa decoration has become a Dunwoody tradition. And her neighborhood has added a few other local traditions. If the Victorys are recognized for their Christmas display, their neighbors, the Neels, have embraced Halloween.

Halloween 2015 hosted by Susie Neel and family in a cul-de-sac in Dunwoody’s Vernon North neighborhood.

When Susie Neel and her husband bought their home in 2001, she said they didn’t have as much activity on the street and they rarely saw trick-or-treaters on Halloween. But, the couple loved the holiday’s “frightening fun” and they started hosting a party about a decade ago.

“It started small, but, within a year or two, our end of the neighborhood became quite the kid zone,” Neel said. “Each year, more families came and more kids got a little closer to our yard [decorated with] frightening ghouls.”

Vernon North, located between a natural buffer and the Dunwoody Village shopping area, is the kind of neighborhood where residents say they regularly get together for community gatherings.

“The neighbors are fantastic and we have many young families,” resident Wayne Radloff said. “There are normally four planned community events … that everyone is invited to.”

Radloff moved from Japan to Dunwoody in 2006 to complete his 30-year career with the Navy. When he took a job as a commanding officer for the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at Georgia Tech, a friend told him Dunwoody would be the best place to buy a home.

Wayne Radloff (left)installs a new mailbox at his Vernon North neighborhood home with his son, Andrew, in 2008.

“What sold us on Vernon North was its location in Dunwoody proper,” Radloff said. “Where we live is quiet and safe, but we can walk to many places, such as churches, the post office and restaurants.”

Radloff said his wife doesn’t drive, but she walks to work at Dunwoody United Methodist Church and has used mass transportation as necessary.
“The office park has always been a nice buffer to have in our backyard,” Radloff said. “It gives us privacy and we don’t hear any traffic from Mount Vernon Road or the office park.”

Neighbors now are negotiating with a developer who wants to add more than 70 townhomes to a portion of Dunwoody Village that abuts the community. Resident Tara Targovnik is organizing meetings about the development, which would be located across the buffer, facing Dunwoody Village Parkway.

“We are still working with the developers on a plan that makes everyone happy,” Targovnik said after the Nov. 18 meeting. “I think we might meet again with them right before [the Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting] in December.”

While the discussions continue, Vernon North residents continue with their holiday traditions. The Victorys plan to crash Santa at least one more time.

“Sadly, while we’ve probably done this for at least the past 14 years, my husband has decided that this will be the last year for the display,” Victory said. “I guess nearing 50 does that to you.”

But Victory said her husband, Stefan, has tried to retire the display before. The last time, shortly after they put a new roof on the house, the neighbors blasted him with emails and texts.

“We got bombarded with so many emails and texts from distraught friends,” Victory said, “that he succumbed to the pressure and put the display up a week late. I don’t think he’ll succumb this time, though.”

Santa should crash one last time, she said, starting the day after Thanksgiving.