Holiday lights are beacon for local visitors

For creators, each year brings more reasons to shine

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

INTERACTIVE MAP

Click here for our interactive map of Christmas lights around Clark County

Standing beneath red and white candy-cane striped lights on a home that might well be visible from space, Jody Strickland and her boyfriend Jeff Hibdon prepared to greet holiday visitors.

The couple love talking to folks that come to check out their neatly organized decorations each Christmas, they said.

As a woman with three young children walked by, Hibdon smiled and crouched down.

“You guys want a candy cane?” he asked, getting squeals and a “wow” in response.

As if on cue, Strickland’s son Andrew, 13, ran across the driveway and gave each one a small candy cane as he played the role of Christmas elf.

Many people decorate their homes with strings of lights this time of year, but for a few Clark County residents, decorating is an art form — and an essential part of the season.

For Strickland and Hibdon, who’ve been together for about four years at their home at 2524 NE 176th Ave., the tradition goes back through both of their families.

“After I moved out of (my parents’) house my dad and I got into a Christmas competition,” said Hibdon, who, like his father, is an electrician. “It got to be a who-had-the-most-lights thing. It’s a friendly competition, though.”

Strickland’s parents also always decorated the family home, she said.

The couple first met as next door neighbors in a different part of town. As it happened, the decorations on both of their old homes had the same color scheme.

So when the two later moved in together, their Christmas displays merged perfectly, they said.

“I like it when everything’s nice and straight and it looks really clean,” Strickland said, proudly looking out at the razor straight rows of lit candy canes along her driveway and yard.

This year, the couple added a inflatable gift decoration and an animatronic mailbox to their tasteful yard displays of Santa Claus, snowmen and penguins.

“We accumulate little things every year that we try to add,” Strickland said. “It’s one of those things that just grows.”

It takes about two weeks to get all the decorations in place, and about six hours to take everything down when the holidays are over, Hibdon said.

He keeps everything wired to a pair of breaker switches in the garage so it’s easy to turn on and off every evening, he said.

“At Halloween all the kids that come by trick or treating, they ask when my Christmas lights are going up,” Hibdon said with a laugh.

He usually starts putting his display together at the beginning of November.

Besides the lawn decorations, the couple also plays Christmas music for visitors, and the house has a TV screen in the window that makes it look like Santa Claus is hanging around inside.

“I tell people I kidnapped him and locked him in our upstairs bedroom,” Hibdon said with a grin.

“He’s supposed to be looking for presents,” Strickland said, giving Hibdon a playfully scornful look.

Worth the power bill

The display, which includes more than 50,000 lights, adds about $50 extra a month to the couple’s electric bill, they said.

But it’s worth the price when people come up and tell them how much the appreciate how it looks.

“We have people bring their kids and put them in our yard and take pictures,” Hibdon said. “What makes it really worth while is all the great comments we get.”

Sometimes people even leave money on the lawn or Christmas cards in the door to show their appreciation, he said.

“That’s not necessary and it’s not why we do it,” Hibdon said. “The thanks of doing a great job is good enough for us.”

Still, the massive display has turned the couples other two teenagers into Christmas light snobs, the pair said.

“We were with the kids looking at lights last year, and they were rolling their eyes at other houses like ‘why do they even bother,’” Strickland said. “They’re so used to our display they don’t appreciate the other ones anymore.”