Kenwood Elves

"Decorate or be decorated" 

All in good natured fun, a merry band of neighbors, under cover of darkness, "decorate" the home of some "lucky" residents who fail to hang so much as a single strand of lights by December 15th. Remember, the evles are poor. Working for Santa pays little wages, so they must use what thety can find. In the theme of a "Rosanne Barr Holiday", they sometimes must make garlands of used paper plates, beer cans, and whatever they can find. Even a three legged raindeer is a grand decoration to them. Just remember, it's just a fun way for the elves to encourage All neighbors to decorate. And all it takes is 1 strand of lights to keep the elves away. So, get in the spirit and "You'd better Hang lights!".

An anonymous “poet” penned this verse to help explain this strange holiday practice to one resident wondering what all this "stuff" was in her yard.

Miracle East of 34th Street

T’was a night in December, our first break from the heat;

Not a creature was stirring on any brick street.

Christmas lights were all hung on the chimneys with care;

In hopes that the Kenwood Elves would not have to go there,

Normal people were nestled all snug in there beds;

While visions of office parties danced in their heads.

The Elves in their glory were milling about:

While having a party and planning their route.

When out on the lawn there rose such a clatter;

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

I looked out of the window in the dark of the night;

And knew it was too late to put up the lights.

You see in this neighborhood no matter who’s who;

You decorate your house or it gets decorated for you.

And what to my wandering eyes should appear;

but eight of my neighbors and their bags full of gear.

They ran down my street with little concern;

I knew in a moment it must be my turn.

More rapid than ever they’re good at this game;

They giggled and whispered and called each other by name.

On ,On ,On ,On ,On ,On ,On ,On ,and;

(Names have been deleted to protect the innocent).

On top of my porch, on top of my wall;

The Elves brought this “stuff” and covered it all.

I heard in a rumor I was not the first;

There were many before me, some even worst.

A wrong house was done and even a truck;

Two houses with the same owner, imagine her luck.

They work without pay and don’t expect fame;

Even a city council member was hit, then later joined in their games.

They spoke not a word and worked without fear;

Hanging decorations made of undergarments and empty cans of beer.

Then quickly as they got there they left in a flash;

Leaving all these decorations they took from the trash.

I guess if I lived in someplace boring and fake;

The neighbors for Christmas might send a fruitcake.

But not in this place with houses so charming;

Our welcome wagon is a little more alarming.

So one thing’s for sure all the Kenwood Elves should hear;

My decorations will be up early this time next year.

And I heard them exclaim as they drove out of sight:

“Merry Christmas to all and to all…You’d better hang lights”


Read more in these articles, reprinted from the St. Petersburg Times.

Elves spread cheer in Kenwood

In one St. Petersburg neighborhood, it's a good idea to get those Christmas lights up early.


Times Correspondent

Dec. 1995

'Twas a couple weeks before Christmas, and Leslie Curran's yard was bare.

No lights, no Santa, no trimmings anywhere.

Then one evening 'round midnight there arose such a clatter,

she carried her beagle outside to see what was the matter.

And what to her wondering eyes should appear,

but gaudy decorations, a garland strung with empty cans of beer. 

 "It honestly was hilarious," said Curran, a City Council member who lives on Seventh Avenue N in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood. "It was the ultimate Roseanne Barr decorations." The Kenwood Elves had struck again.

The loosely organized group of Kenwood residents decided two years ago to "help" neighbors get into the holiday spirit by trimming bare yards with Styrofoam, broken candles and other junk.  Yards that don't at least have a string of lights in the bushes by Dec. 15 risk a visit. "We kind of made a tradition of it," Dona Howell said. 

The party that convened on Curran's yard last year began in Howell's house.  Sue Winger, former president of Kenwood's neighborhood association, laughed as she recalled trying to hide behind skinny palm trees in Curran's yard.  "The funny thing was, she came outside carrying her dog," Winger said.  Winger and Howell were reminiscing during Kenwood's December neighborhood meeting.  Resident Bertha Reid, who was sitting nearby, overheard their cackles as they recalled last year's decorating capers. "I think I better put up something," Reid said. "If I don't, she's (Howell) crazy enough to get the team to do it."

The decorating campaign is all in good fun, and the elves say they target only the homes of friends who they're sure will appreciate the prank.  But even well-intentioned elves can make a mistake.  The week after Curran's yard got the ratty tinsel, "baby-doll" head treatment, she hooked up with the group as they went out to decorate once again.  "I was thinking, 'Oh, dear God, please don't let me get busted.  I'm on City Council' " she said.  Midway through the job, an elderly woman peered quizzically out the window at the elves.  "It's the wrong house," Curran remembered thinking.  No harm done, though.  The woman laughed and the elves cleaned up before they skedaddled.  But they left their mark at Phil Santmyer's place.  He was the elves' first victim two years ago.  "Because he was acting like a Scrooge," joked resident Shirley Howell.  "I walked out the door and my truck was blinking at me," said Santmyer, who lives on Burlington Avenue.  "They had the most funky-looking lights attached to the back of my pickup truck.  "This year, he said, he got his decorations up early. 



The Stealth Elves


St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer

LARA CERRI / St Pete Times

Kenwood Elves engage in prank decorating late Fnday night that continued until the wee hours of Saturday morning in the neighbòrhood. The elves, who work quickly and in the dark, bring holiday decor to select undecorated Kenwood homes.