End of Christmas lights at the Pepin home

TEMPLE TERRACE — Wrapped in the strands of more than a million lights, towering live oaks cast an ethereal glow across the front lawn.

Santa, lit from within, stands at the center. Twinkling angels watch over him.

In the background, the Pepin family home shines. Red lights adorn the columns and a wreath hangs on the door.

For 25 years, folks have driven out of their way to gaze at the dazzling display.

The creation of Art Pepin, philanthropist and founder of Pepin Distributing, the display continued to go up for more than a decade after his death and a year after his wife, Polly, passed away.

Now, it may go dark.

The Pepin family plans to place the house at 1011 N Riverhills Drive in Temple Terrace on the market before the end of the year.

Built by Art Pepin in 1968, the more than 6,000-square-foot house on the Hillsborough River is filled with Anheuser-Busch memorabilia, photographs of famous visitors and countless memories.

"If the walls could talk, we would have to burn this place down," said J. Paul Pepin, one of Art and Polly's two sons.

Responsible for Anheuser-Busch distribution in Hillsborough and parts of Pasco County, Art Pepin hosted many sports figures and entertainers at his home over the years, J. Paul Pepin said.

"We would come home from school and Sonny Bono would be playing tennis and John Forsythe would be hanging by the pool," J. Paul Pepin said.

Baseball greats like Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Bench, Broadway star Rosemary Clooney and comedian Bob Hope all streamed through the door at some point.

Entire NFL teams came over for dinner with Art Pepin serving as cook.

People felt at home in the large house, J. Paul Pepin said, thanks in part to 200-year-old barn beams in the family room. They were imported from Vermont, near where Art Pepin was raised.

A bar with a built-in beer keg tap helped, too.

Practically every surface of the home bears a reminder of the Pepin business, with Budweiser logos on the curtains, the Budweiser Clydesdales prancing across the mantle and a pool shaped like a Michelob bottle.

Impromptu parties were common.

Art Pepin would come home from the golf course with 20 friends, J. Paul Pepin said. That was when the lasagnas Polly Pepin stocked in the freezer came in handy.

But, the best time of the year was always Christmas.

"Daddy loved it," said Jill Pepin, who lives in the Riverhills house with her husband, Tim Smith.

"He would wake up before any of the kids on Christmas morning. We would always have French meat pies with an egg on top and Brandy Alexanders."

This Christmas will most likely be their last in the house.

"It's a horrible decision," Jill Pepin said. "This property has been part of my blood since 1968."

But the house is too much for a family with no children, she said.

A price on the house hasn't been set yet. The more than 3-acre property is valued at $860,114 on the Hillsborough County Property Appraisers website.

Most of the collectibles inside will go to family and eventually an estate sale.

The family will leave the Christmas lights up, though, just in case.

"I hope the buyer will carry on the tradition," Jill Pepin said. "It's beautiful."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

. fast facts

The Pepin home

For details on the home's sale, call Christopher Dixon at Northstar Realty at (727) 528-7653.

End of Christmas lights at the Pepin home 12/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 4:34pm]

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