Trick-or-treat or teepee a tree? McCullom Lake resident’s unusual Halloween tradition on its 21st year

McCullom Lake resident Kerry Neff, 61, shown here with his grandson, Joe Jakubowski, and daughter, Lacey, looks on in amusement at the annual teepeeing of his tree on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, a tradition that Neff said has lasted over 20 years.

This Halloween, anyone passing down Fountain Lane in McCullom Lake would notice the unusual sight of a nun, a princess, and a Roaring ‘20s gangster, among others, throwing toilet paper up into a tree.

Each Halloween for the past 21 years, Kerry Neff, 61, has brought out the toilet paper – this year he had over 20 rolls – and encouraged trick-or-treaters passing by to teepee his front yard tree, decorating it in reams of ghostly white until the trunk is no longer visible.

“I decided one year, there were two boys my daughter’s age out with toilet paper,” Neff said. “I just asked them, ‘Hey want to teepee my tree?’ And we just kept doing that every year.”

The teepeeing of the tree has become a multi-generational event, Neff said, noting that his daughter, Lacey, was in eighth grade when the tradition began, and now his grandson, fourth-grader Joe Jakubowski, was the first eager toilet paper thrower of the evening.

Parents and kids who stopped by were delighted by the sight, with several parents saying they greatly appreciated the chance for kids to let loose and have fun.

McCullom Lake trick-or-treater Alex Swanson prepares to throw a roll of toilet paper at a tree in Kerry Neff's front yard on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, as part of an annual Halloween tradition.

“It’s a good way for them to have fun without it being ‘bad fun,’” said McCullom Lake resident Heather Christiansen.

Another parent, Todd Swanson, called the area “a friendly neighborhood” and compared the teepeeing to “a kid’s version of a rage room.”

While Neff’s teepee tradition has been remarkably consistent, even offering toilet paper during the pandemic, this is the first year the tree will be lit up in the evening, Neff said.

It is also a bittersweet occasion, Neff said, as his stepfather, Gary Swinford, passed away over the weekend.

“He loved this,” Neff said of the teepeed tree. “There’s no reason not to love it.”

McCullom Lake trick-or-treaters Mary Hansen and her granddaughter Christa explore a teepeed tree in Kerry Neff's front yard on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, as part of an annual Halloween tradition.

Neff noted that he has “been in a chair half his life,” the result of a motorcycle crash almost 30 years ago that left him quadriplegic. But Neff said he enjoyed coming out for Halloween.

“This is awesome tonight,” Neff said. “Most kids are still just in amazement: ‘You are going to let us do it?’”

Later this week, Neff said he and his family will “try to beat the rain” and get the paper down from the tree, though he said “the squirrels do a bang-up job” of assisting.

In 2020, Neff said that several people ended up coming by and confiscate the toilet paper for their COVID-19 stash, which he didn’t mind.

“It saved us some cleanup,” Neff said.

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