Santa Z’s Legacy

Here’s a Christmas display that looks a bit more traditional than the one in last week’s post. And it doesn’t just look traditional, Zapf’s Christmas Display is a definite Cincinnati tradition with decades of history. In 1970, Bill “Santa Z” Zapf marked the first Christmas in his new home with some outside decorations and the house has been the site of an ever growing holiday display every December since then.

Bill died in 2008 but his son, known as Billy, keeps the tradition going. Billy was busy replacing some lights in his father’s name when I stopped by in the afternoon, but he still offered up a friendly hello and chatted a bit as he worked. It’s obvious that Billy gets a lot of pleasure from the display and a good deal of that pleasure comes from the memories it triggers. Memories of his dad and the time the two of them spent creating and maintaining the glowing wonderland.

Yes, there is a normal nativity scene among all those figures. I’m including both day and night views of the nativity because that’s what I did last week but it’s an undeniable fact that this is a display meant to be enjoyed at night.

In early December, Cincinnati Magazine published their Top 5 Holiday Light Displays. All five are commercial or municipal operations. Described as “…your average neighborhood light display…on steroids”, Zapf’s received the lone Honorable Mention. Four of the top five have fixed admission prices and the fifth requests donations. Although it might no be as obvious, the Zapf family does too. There is a “Thank You Box” by the porch and the North Side Bank and Trust accepts donations to the Keep Santa Z’s Lights On fund. Electricity isn’t free.

The porch itself is packed with smaller decorations including one that hints at the Zapfs receiving a well deserved Major Award.

The display is located at 2032 W Galbraith Road. A recent Channel 5 story on the display is here.

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