On an average Sunday, Alejandro (Alex) Santiago can typically be found studying for his classes, practicing the piano or planning his next trip, but on Oct. 1, Santiago brought out his Halloween decorations and spent the day meticulously decorating his car.
“It only took me a day for this year’s car. I started in the morning and finished in the late afternoon of the same day,” he said.
Beginning and evolution of the decorating tradition
“Honestly, the whole tradition of decorating my car just started out of the blue,” Santiago said.
Santiago said he started decorating for Christmas in 2013, then moved to Halloween the next year, starting an annual tradition for himself.
Recently moving to Central Florida, Santiago said he turned the decorations down a notch to be able to learn the area and be more comfortable, but he expects his Christmas decorations this season to be one of his best yet.
“At first, my family was really confused and obviously not used to it," he said. "Now they are fully supportive of the whole deal every year and they ask me a month before what this year’s theme will be."
Santiago said the community's support also makes him want to do continue decorating every year.
UCF student takes spirit of Halloween to next level
Spirit of Halloween: With Halloween right around the corner, hospitality management major Alejandro Santiago parks his decorated car on campus and rides the shuttle to the Rosen campus on Oct. 17. “The reason I keep doing it is because of the spirit going around and the smiles you see. That's what makes you want to do it again, and again, and again.” Photos by Megan Turner.
The method to the madness
Every year, Santiago decorates the car by himself.
He typically spends one full day cleaning the car and methodically placing all the decorations.
Many of the decorations are re-used each year, but Santiago buys any new decorations the summer before the decorating day. If he needs to add minor touches, he will buy some things in-store, but he mostly buys the supplies he needs online to ensure variety and to save on costs.
He ensures the decorations are secure and safe by using high-quality material and test driving in different conditions.
“After a full-body check, I take the car on a late-night test drive, when the roads and highways are empty, and that's how I find out the certain speeds the props can sustain,” Santiago said.
Johnny Rogan, a senior studying aerospace engineering, compliments Santiago on the steps he takes to ensure the props stay secure and the planning put into the design.
“The car is so unique and intriguing, it really embodies the spirit of Halloween,” Rogan said.
When it comes to the removal of the decorations, Santiago said he prefers to get it done as soon as possible.
“I usually remove the Halloween decorations immediately after Halloween, so it will be around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. on Nov. 1, and the car will be like nothing was on it the following morning,” Santiago said.
He said he's spent around $500 on all decorations since 2013.
“When it comes to future designs,” Santiago said, “that is for you to find out next year.”
Getting to Know Alex Santiago
Santiago is a junior at UCF studying hospitality management. When he isn’t decorating, Santiago loves to explore new places, volunteer in the community and attend music festivals.
“I just like to learn something new every day and embrace other personalities and other people that make this world a beautiful place," he said.
Although he likes to remain somewhat mysterious, Santiago said he loves to make people smile.
“The reason I keep doing it is because of the spirit going around and the smiles you see," he said. "That's what makes you want to do it again and again and again.”