By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Bonnie Raitt had a popular song with a repeated chorus of “Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About”, and that is kind of what the Nardella family has done at their home in Bridgeport … although that was NOT their intention!
Nicole Nardella says that she has always loved the charm of big, old homes, and every time the family drove down Philadelphia Avenue in Bridgeport, they had admired this particular residence, built in 1908. Her children aptly identified it as the “Lion House” because of the two imposing concrete lions that top the pillars at the driveway’s entrance. They had no idea at the time that this would someday be their home! However, with five children, (four of them still living at home) they needed the space it offered.
“We drove by one time and the owners at the time had Santa hats on the lions. I remember my husband remarking then that if we owned that house, we could decorate them for every holiday. I suppressed that idea, thinking the lions were too stately and distinguished for something like that. But then our children got excited about it after we purchased the house in January of this year, and we’ve just kept the ball rolling,” Nicole stated.
The lions’ first dress-up occasion was for St. Patrick’s Day when the kids found some “greenery” at Target … and mom finally gave in. Then came Easter, and the lions became bunnies, and since then it has become a Nardella tradition!
“Our kids have had such a good time doing it, and we have all gotten involved. It has become a family project,” she added, noting that the lions’ fashions change for more than just major holidays! “Sometimes we change them more than once a month, depending on what is going on.”
Passersby soon began to take notice of the lions’ frequent costume changes and it became popular to watch for the next transformation. Sometimes people shout out how much they enjoy seeing the costume alterations and folks are even making requests!
In addition to St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, the lions costuming has displayed a Star Wars theme, a summer theme, a July 4th theme, and more recently they have worn feathered headdresses in honor of the Bridgeport Indians. Last week was Bridgeport High School’s homecoming event, so of course, the lions wore crowns as king and queen! And following someone’s suggestion, the lions even donned special glasses for the recent solar eclipse!
“We decorated them for the first day of school as well. The kids made school books, an apple and we stood a chalkboard at their feet with a ‘Welcome back to school’ sign,” Nicole elaborated. “We also made a school bus out of a big cardboard box and painted it bright yellow. One of my daughters even got up at 5:30 a.m. to help put it all together on the first day of school.”
This no small undertaking, with homemade props often accompanying the costume changes! Not only has this become a time for family fellowship, it also has an added bonus of being an opportunity for the Nardella children to develop their creativity … and it will likely give them future opportunities because since the lions have to weather the outside elements, many of their costumes may not be able to be reused.
“It’s something we enjoy as a family, and we’ve been very surprised by the attention our lions have drawn,” Nicole concluded. “It gives people something to look forward to, and with there being so many difficulties in today’s world, it is really very heartwarming to bring smiles to faces and add a little joy to the world.”
Again, acting upon requests, the family set up a Facebook page – “LionHouseLions” – and there they post photos of their lions in various costumes. Nicole noted that interest has been shown beyond the boundaries of Bridgeport. The page has many followers and among them are local natives who no longer live here but enjoy seeing how the lions are attired. Nicole said that the Merinar family, from whom they purchased the house nine months ago, had a foreign exchange student living with them at one time. Although she has returned to her native country, she, too, follows the lions’ costuming via Facebook.
There is more to come! Already they have plans for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, so keep an eye out for perhaps a goblin and witch … perhaps a Pilgrim or two … and maybe Santa & Mrs. Claus??? Their ideas are not being divulged; it will be surprise, but the lions – however they are disguised – are sure to draw more smiles!