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Halloween Decorating Contest: Cruella Wins Best of the Best

Cruella de Vil was the talk of the town this Halloween. The famed dalmatian-napper took over a home on Atherton Drive and won residents Julie DeNeve and Charles Christy the Best of the Best prize in Santa Clara’s 4th annual Halloween Home Decorating Contest.

DeNeve says the idea for the display struck five months ago after she saw the new Cruella movie.

“When I came out of it, I’m like, ‘That’s what I’m doing.’ I said, ‘I’m doing a fashion show out here. We’re going to do it with 101 dalmatians so we can bring the kids into it.’ Because everything out here has been about focusing on the community,” said DeNeve.


She designed the display with the kids in mind. DeNeve dressed up as Stone’s Cruella on Halloween and handed out candy while Christy donned full dalmatian gear to help the little ones take photos amid the decorations.

The display took five months of planning and two months of intense labor to come together. It featured three versions of Cruella; the Disney animation version, the Glenn Close version and the Emma Stone version. For DeNeve, it was a labor of love.

“It’s super fun. Obviously, I do this because I love doing it. I don’t do it to win contests, but…I want more people to see it. If I’m going to put five months of time and effort into it, I want people to see it,” said DeNeve.

This isn’t the first display featured at the home on Atherton Drive, and it won’t be the last either. DeNeve found an outlet for her creativity during the pandemic. She started posing skeletons on her front lawn doing everything people wished they could do during the pandemic. She posted the pictures on the Facebook page “Skeleton Crew Santa Clara.”

The skeleton crew joined in last year’s Hunchback of Notre Dame Halloween display and nestled in with the dalmatian puppies this year.

District 1 winner Marcy Fancey says Halloween decorations are a family tradition.

“I grew up like this. Our family, we used to carve 50, 60 pumpkins and have them on this whole hillside. My brother is still living in Pennsylvania, and he totally does it up even crazier than I do,” said Fancey.

Fancey decked out her home on Brackett Way in the Rivermark neighborhood with the decorations she’s collected over the years. Jack Skellington watched over the front yard while witches brewed up potions near the garage. A massive, hairy spider guarded the front door.

District 2 winner David Shearer says he’s just a big kid at heart.

“It’s fun. It’s just fun. I’m an old child. I don’t have kids. I’m the big kid here,” said Shearer.

Shearer says he has tried to stick to the ghost theme, but he’s also added little touches like a talking witch projected on his garage door.


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