Decorating home for Fourth of July is a must for San Antonio family

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Known as Military City USA, San Antonio is home to year-round displays of patriotism. Miniature American flags line suburban streets. Veterans fly military flags from front-yard flagpoles across all ZIP codes. Since Memorial Day, just north of downtown, passersby have been captivated by a panoramic tribute to Independence Day.

A life-size cutout of Uncle Sam offers a sharp salute to motorists driving past a beige brick home. The red, white and blue sentinel stands at attention amid an array of Fourth of July yard art that encircles the one-story house. The display fans out beyond the red, clay-tile roof to the curb. Swaying spangles reflect stars and stripes. The tricolored scheme extends to four bicycles grounded in rock gardens. Faded hues of Old Glory tint cardboard letters that spell “Freedom.”

The Ramirez family has adorned their home with streamers, sculptures and star-spangled signs as one of San Antonio’s many residential Fourth of July celebrations. Their decorations aren’t a political statement, but simply an expression of the family’s holiday spirit.

Uncle Sam dolls hang from the tree’s with a patriotic theme in front of the home of Annie and Joseph Ramirez. Annie said she decorates for every holiday, including Fiesta.

Uncle Sam dolls hang from the tree’s with a patriotic theme in front of the home of Annie and Joseph Ramirez. Annie said she decorates for every holiday, including Fiesta.

Robin Jerstad, San Antonio Express-News

People call their home the holiday house. Annie Ramirez, 53, her husband and son go all out to decorate their home with the appropriate festive theme. On Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, the decorations light up inside rooms. Ramirez said seeing people enjoy their displays inspires and motivates her to do more.

A 22-year veteran of the Air Force, Vincent T. Davis embarked on a second career as a journalist and found his calling. Observing and listening across San Antonio, he finds intriguing tales to tell about everyday people. He shares his stories with Express-News subscribers every Monday morning.


“If I can bring some joy, it makes me happy,” she said. “It’s nice to put a smile on people’s faces one holiday season at a time.”

Last week, Ramirez shared cellphone photos of past displays. There’s a glowing leprechaun and a green glow projected upon their home on St. Patrick’s Day. Life-size cutouts of mariachis and flamenco dancers on a banner fill outside arches for Fiesta, along with festive trimmings also used for Easter.

Most items, such as hard plastic blow molds, are of the old school variety, with a smattering of 21st century doodads and LED lights. Their first vintage hard plastic mold was a 4-foot-tall Santa Claus. The only inflatable in their large inventory is a Thanksgiving turkey.

Many decorations come from estate sales and antique shops in and around San Antonio. The Ramirezes have rummaged for items from the 1930s to the 1970s at shops as far away as Comfort, Gonzales and Round Rock.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding,” her husband said. “I support my wife; it makes her happy.”

On the front lawn, a twin Uncle Sam reclines on 1776 pillows, propped on a green, swinging porch bench suspended from a tree. He’s clad in red and white striped pants and top hat, his chest puffed out in a white star-speckled blue jacket with red lapels.

Bicycles are part of the patriotic theme in front of the home of Annie and Joseph Ramirez. Annie said she decorates for every holiday, including Fiesta.

Bicycles are part of the patriotic theme in front of the home of Annie and Joseph Ramirez. Annie said she decorates for every holiday, including Fiesta.

Robin Jerstad, San Antonio Express-News

Setting up decorations weeks before a holiday has been their routine since 2015, when they moved to the neighborhood. Annie Ramirez said residents, family and friends have taken time to say how the displays make them feel good. She shared two of a handful of thank-you notes left on her porch.

“I just wanted to say how much I love your decorations!” a teen wrote. “They always make me smile when I’m driving home.”

During the pandemic, a couple thanked them for “brightening” their neighborhood and for “yard displays that never fail to produce smiles.”

“During this last year, smiles were very hard to come by,” they wrote in a card. “And we decided an official ‘Thanks’ was deserved.”

“It’s rewarding to know we’re able to help people have a little bit of happiness,” Annie Ramirez said, “even for a short time.”

Windmill’s spin with a patriotic theme in front of the home of Annie and Joseph Ramirez. Annie said she decorates for every holiday, including Fiesta.

Windmill’s spin with a patriotic theme in front of the home of Annie and Joseph Ramirez. Annie said she decorates for every holiday, including Fiesta.

Robin Jerstad, San Antonio Express-News

They feel pride when people of all ages take in the holiday views. Youngsters “ooh” and “aah” their approval from open car door windows. High school track team members scan the yard during early morning sprints. Octogenarians have taken a gander and revisited their childhood, when yuletide ornaments were big as oranges.

In 2019, the family’s Christmas yard show won first place in their community Christmas display contest. They’ve judged the event every year since.

Annie Ramirez’s penchant for yard designs may stem from her father, a thrifty man who loved Halloween. He would drive to the Salvation Army, garage sales and city pickups to retrieve and resurrect tossed-away items as outdoor art.

Her son said setting up displays with his parents isn’t work. He likes seeking classic items to stage for neighbors on their lawn, “knowing there are still little kids that have an eye for old things.”

The decorations also pick up Annie Ramirez’s spirits. When she needs a break, she’ll walk outside, among the nostalgic yard art, lined with pastimes of hope that bring her peace.

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Angela M. Arriola

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