Country communities deck the driveways for Christmas

Email Shannon Verhagen
Pia Hulse, 5, and her sister Skye,7, love the Christmas display on their grandparent's farm.
Camera IconPia Hulse, 5, and her sister Skye,7, love the Christmas display on their grandparent's farm.

For many across the globe, the clock striking 12 on December 1 serves as the green light to decorate their tree and put up their Christmas lights.

But in country WA, Christmas decorations look a little different, with hay bales, tyres and old farm vehicles incorporated into larger-than-life designs in paddocks by farm gates.

In the Wheatbelt, one family went even further — decorating their whole town.

An idea born five years ago when Rangeview Merino Stud owners Geraldine and John King were taking a cross-country trip, “Operation Decorate Darkan” has since become an annual tradition and talking point for the town.

“My husband John and I were driving across the Nullarbor when we got to Kimba in South Australia,” Mrs King said.

A hay bale Christmas Tree at the Bartram's property in Dumbleyung.
Camera IconA hay bale Christmas Tree at the Bartram's property in Dumbleyung.

“It was January and they had all of these cool Christmas cut-outs around the town which I thought looked fantastic and it actually made us stop and walk around and have a good look.

“When we got home I thought we could do something like that in Darkan — we’re on a busy road from Bunbury through east.”

The Wagin Christmas tree.
Camera IconThe Wagin Christmas tree. Credit: Pictures: Shannon Verhagen

They have since spent hours upon hours designing and creating their own cut-outs to place around the town, from kangaroos and koalas donning Christmas hats to Aussie Santas rocking pluggers.

“My son Jeremy, I give him the ideas and he does the drawings on the ply board and my husband cuts them out and myself and my helpers paint them,” Mrs King said.

The Christmas display at Arthur River Roadhouse.
Camera IconThe Christmas display at Arthur River Roadhouse.

It has inspired farmers in the region to put up their own displays, with an angel built of tyres and Santas driving old utes for sleighs dotting the Coalfields Highway, which has been dubbed “Hayfields Highway” in previous summers due to the creativity of farmer’s with hay-bale displays.

Pia Hulse, 5, and her sister Skye,7, love the Christmas display on their grandparent's farm.
Camera IconPia Hulse, 5, and her sister Skye,7, love the Christmas display on their grandparent's farm.

Further east in Dumbleyung, the Bartram family are spreading Christmas cheer with a colourful hay bale Christmas tree by their front gate, which Laura Bartram said her husband Drew had constructed for the past five years.

Peta Hulse with her grandchildren (from left) Pia, 5, Lexie,10, Skye,7, and Max, 1, put up a Christmas display each year.
Camera IconPeta Hulse with her grandchildren (from left) Pia, 5, Lexie,10, Skye,7, and Max, 1, put up a Christmas display each year.

“The kids absolutely love it and look forward to spending a few hours decorating it each year,” she said. “It’s always a highlight when the school bus arrives and the kids get to ‘show off’ their creative display to their friends.

“Operation Decorate Darkan” organiser Geraldine King.
Camera Icon“Operation Decorate Darkan” organiser Geraldine King. Credit: Picture: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

“This is the first year we’ve put solar fairy lights on the tree, so hopefully the parrots will behave and not chew the wires.”

“Operation Decorate Darkan” organiser Geraldine King.
Camera Icon“Operation Decorate Darkan” organiser Geraldine King.
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan.
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan.
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan.
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan.
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan.
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan. Credit: Pictures: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan.
Christmas displays in Darkan.
Camera IconChristmas displays in Darkan.
A Christmas display in Darkan.
Camera IconA Christmas display in Darkan.

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