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Christmas lights make Johnson City neighborhoods bright

Jennifer Sprouse • Dec 24, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Maybe it’s tradition.

Maybe it’s a love of decorating –– both inside and outside –– for each season or holiday.

Or maybe it’s songs like “We Need A Little Christmas” enticing the holiday followers to “put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen,” but whatever the reason, Johnson Citians have definitely heeded the call this year.

From Interstate 26, colorful Christmas trees top bank buildings and the roof of Appalachian Christian Village off North Roan Street, and in downtown Johnson City snowflake light displays arch over streets adding a little extra light for those driving or walking through the area.

But, when it comes to residential light displays, some people have gone above and beyond to make their neighborhoods a little brighter for all.

Donald and Sue LaFrance said they started their decorating the Monday after Thanksgiving and, given their carefully crafted Christmas displays on their front lawn at their home at 3502 Pine Timbers Drive, it’s easy to see why it took them 10 days to get everything up.

Collecting a series of light scenes through the years –– Santa Claus with his sleigh and reindeer, a nativity scene and an angel with flapping wings –– the LaFrances’ yard has a little something for everyone to enjoy.

“We did the snow family. We’ve added to the snow family,” Sue said. “We just add something little every year.”

Donald said they’ve been decorating the house for 11 years and that he and his wife continue with the display each year because he knows people enjoy it.

“The kids love it,” he said. “Cars come by and they look at it and I just like seeing that.”

Sue said her parents also would decorate for the Christmas season, so it’s a natural inclination to continue with the tradition each year.

“We just have fun doing all of it. I like it all,” she said. “(It) brings happiness to others and smiles to others. Don and I both love Christmas. We like to see people’s faces light up.”

According to the LaFrances, they also do some heavy decorating for Halloween as well, and they’ve had to hire an electrician over the years to add electrical outlet boxes to make all of their displays safe.

As for adding more displays next year, Sue and Donald said they may have met their quota.

“I don’t know if we’re going to add any more, maybe change it around a little bit like we did this year,” Sue said.

At 1103 Southwest Ave. in the Tree Streets neighborhood, Santa has ditched his traditional red sleigh and has opted for a canoe.

Will Dalton said in an effort to cut back on decorating costs, his family decided to look around the yard to see what they could use, and the family canoe seemed like a fun option.

He said he had a lot of help from his two kids on deciding where and how to decorate.

“They were very excited about it. They worked on where Santa should go and my 5-year-old daughter actually recommended putting lights around the canoe,” Dalton said. “They did all the placement of the paddle and everything.”

“(It’s) sort of a Christmas theme that’s thrown in a little bit of the ... characteristics of our family, too. We get in the outdoors at lot, so we do enjoy camping and being on the water,” Dalton said. “I could definitely see Santa in the canoe back next year, maybe even bigger and better.”

Also on the Tree Streets, one 103-year-old home gives off a Victorian-era vibe with a splash of classic Christmas, featuring lights, garland and bows carefully draped around posts and railings.

Kathy Serago, 700 W. Locust St., said she and her husband have been working hard to get up the decorations both indoors and outside.

“A lot of houses ... at night is when you see that it looks like Christmas. Ours during the day looks just as good,” Serago said. “I’ve got the garland going along the railing and got red bows.”

Outlining the house are white lights, which also are wrapped around pillars and railings.

“Ours (the theme) is the same every year. I know that a lot of people ... with all of the colored lights and the different blow ups and all of that, they have a variety and ... add to it. Keeping with this house ... all that stuff wouldn’t go. It wouldn’t look right,” Serago said.

She said even though her house doesn’t change, her neighbors and people passing by seem to enjoy it equally each season.

While he may not live in Northeast Ohio anymore, John Beaver still breaks out the Christmas lights and decor at his home on 711 Ferndale Road, just not as many as he used to.

“When we were up there, I’d put up (8,000-10,000) lights, so we’ve scaled back quite a bit here,” he said.

Beaver’s property has the main Christmas colors made up of reds, greens and whites, but said there is definitely an order.

“The wife ultimately likes all white lights. She doesn’t really like the color lights,” he said. “She feels more festive or wintry with just the whites, but we try to throw in some of the red for the kids and then the bushes I usually always did green. The trees I kind of did the ... candy cane stripes. The house is strictly just the whites.”

Beaver said Christmas time is his wife Wendy’s favorite time of year and that he decorates the house for her.

“She loves Christmas. It was a day before Thanksgiving (and) she was already dragging out the decorations for the house, the Christmas tree,” he said.

He said decorating doesn’t take too long, just about four to five hours, and that they usually stay with the same lights from year to year.

“One thing I don’t do is I don’t chase burnt out bulbs. Once a bulb goes out, the strand is pitched,” Beaver said.

He added that it’s always been fun to drive around town and see everyone else’s lights, and said that he enjoys that his house is a part of that tradition for others.

“It’s nice to be festive,” he said.

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