Christmas cheer spread from father to son and back

Teen rekindles Vancouver dad's love for holiday displays

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

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The lights are on from dusk until about 10 p.m. throughout December at the Buchanan home, 15309 N.E. Seventh St.

Brad Buchanan still remembers his father's knowing smile as glowing Christmas cheer radiated past them into Northeast Seventh Street.

That was 17 years ago, at the height of extravagance for Buchanan's holiday display. He had been improving the effort each year since moving into his Vancouver home as a newlywed three years earlier.

With the help of his best friend, Tony Whitesides, Buchanan's zeal for all things red and green led to more and more bright bulbs, an extended family of illuminated figurines and a dangerously overheated breaker box.

"We had to take the panel off the breaker box and have a fan on it," Buchanan recalled.

These days, his home is not quite as bright as before, but it's a whole lot safer.

By winter 1995 the Buchanan home became quite the sight, even earning a segment on the evening news.

"That was the year I went nuts," he said.

Buchanan's father, Robert, was bitten by the decorating bug decades before while living in Yakima.

The elder's seasonal pursuits even won him a neighborhood award, one of many fond memories Brad Buchanan has of growing up in a home awash in Christmas creativity.

A short time before he died in December 1995, Robert Buchanan paid a visit to his son's home and was bathed in the bright beauty of Christmas.

"He was able to see just about when I peaked, and he loved it," Buchanan said.

But as the decade progressed, instances of theft and vandalism nagged at Buchanan. Baby Jesus was even cruelly snatched from his manger in 1997.

Eventually, decorations were sold and others gathered dust in storage.

The glow of 15309 N.E. Seventh St. never quite extinguished, but part of Buchanan's passion did.

Just as his father taught him the joys holiday lights can bring to the neighborhood and internally, Buchanan's 15-year-old son Brant kept him from becoming somewhat of a Scrooge.

When he came of age, the teen's decorating chops -- and diligence -- quickly began to rival that of his father and grandfather.

This inspired the proud father. Decorations were shifted back from the garage to the yard. Brant even began to chip in with his own cash, even though dad said that really wasn't necessary.

Drive by the North Hearthwood home and you'll see it's back to full festive force: the entire lawn glows with red lights, Santa's sleigh and reindeer seem to magically fly toward the house, a large "Season's Greetings" atop the garage sends a friendly message.

And a full nativity scene, bordered by green lights, reminds Buchanan of why he celebrates Christmas to begin with.

Even though the holiday is almost here, Brant keeps on tinkering. On his own volition, he bought nine, thigh-high toy soldiers on Craigslist to add to the nearly 40 other figurines on the property.

When the lights are on from dusk to 10 p.m., Buchanan cherishes the cars that slow down out front, basking in the brilliance. He especially enjoys the repeat customers, the families he sees rolling by night after night; wide-eyed children in the backseat, faces against the window.

"The smiles I see on the kids faces, that's what makes it worthwhile to me," Buchanan said. "Adults enjoy it, too, but kids, you can just see it in their eyes."

Stover E. Harger III: 360-735-4530; stover.harger@columbian.com; Twitter: col_hoods.

Holiday Lights Map 2012