by Susan Mikula Campbell
Photos by Danny Maerten
This time of year, it's not unusual to see lighted Santas, reindeer and snowmen decorating people's yards.
Danny Maerten's house on Niagara Road in Bergholz has a dinosaur.
Built of PVC pipes, hung with colorful lights, with a red ribbon at its neck, it carries a sign proclaiming "Merry Christmas" on one side and "Fröhlich Weinnachten" on the other, a tip of the hat to Maerten's German ancestry.
And, if you look up on the roof of Maerten's home, there's another pipe dinosaur on a sleigh.
Maerten, of Daniel Maerten Plumbing and Heating, has been a plumber since he was 18. It was a family business until his father retired last year.
The dinosaur tradition started when Maerten's son Trevin, now 23, turned 5 years old. Trevin was into dinosaurs at the time, and Maerten made a dinosaur out of pipes with a sign that said, "Happy Birthday, Trevin."
"When he went out to go to school that morning, it was there," Maerten said. "When he came home from school, all the kids were talking about it. It was kind of neat," Maerten said.
"It was such a unique idea, and I remember being really surprised. As a kid, feeling like a paleontologist for even a second was great fun, and it's still my favorite birthday," said Trevin Maerten, who now lives and works in Baltimore.
That first dinosaur was an apatosaurus. Within the year, it was joined by a triceratops and then a two-legged pachysaurus that Maerten would move to various locations in the yard. For Trevin's seventh birthday, Maerten built a 20-foot dinosaur.
"The neighbors thought I was nuts," Maerten joked.
Somewhere along the line, he started adding Christmas lights to the dinosaurs in December and decorating for other holidays and events. For first day of school, when Trevin was still little, the dinosaur out front sported an apple in its mouth and carried a backpack. It also has worn a Buffalo Bills jersey and a white sheet and mask for Halloween.
At one time, Maerten had as many as four pipe dinosaurs in his yard. These days, he only has one during the year and the two at Christmas.
The dinosaur, now in Maerten's front yard, replaced the original about five to seven years ago. It's a little bigger, giving Maerten more room to hang his holiday messages.
Neighbors notice if Maerten doesn't have his dinosaur decorated. "I've had people put little notes on the door asking 'Are you all right?' " he said.
The dinosaur has been good advertising for his business.
"When I do service jobs, it seems like somebody is always mentioning it. I get some nice positive feedback on it," he said.
Plus, he said, "If I need somebody to come to the house, I just tell them we're the one with the dinosaur out front. It's really easy to get to!"