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Oct. 21, 2020

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Get ready to rumble — over Christmas decorations

East Vancouver neighbors light up holidays with friendly competition

By , Columbian Staff Writer
6 Photos
Randy Peppers, from left, David Buffum (dressed as Santa) and Paul Lamb have a friendly competition to show who can put up the most elaborate Christmas decorations at their homes on Southeast Riveridge Drive.
Randy Peppers, from left, David Buffum (dressed as Santa) and Paul Lamb have a friendly competition to show who can put up the most elaborate Christmas decorations at their homes on Southeast Riveridge Drive. (Steve Dipaola for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

Randy Peppers tries to be a friendly, helpful neighbor, but sometimes his generosity gets him into trouble at home.

“My wife and daughters don’t like me helping too much,” said Peppers, 45. “I was told, ‘You don’t help the neighbors on Christmas.’ ”

While Christmas is thought to be a time of giving back and helping others, the reason Peppers’ family doesn’t want him helping Paul Lamb, who lives next door, is because the two engage in a friendly competition to see who can put up the most extravagant decorations.

“We’ve been really putting up decorations for about 22 years,” Peppers said. “Our last neighbor couldn’t keep up and stopped setting up. We like to get our neighbors involved. We’re not trying to shut anyone down.”

Now in its fifth year, the neighborhood battle brings hundreds of people to the corner of Southeast Riveridge Drive and Southeast 15th Street in Vancouver, each holiday season. This year, a new challenger entered the fray.

Holiday decorations for all to enjoy

With so much of Clark County lit up for the holidays, it can be overwhelming figuring out which houses to visit and gawk at. Never fear. The Columbian is here to help with a list of houses worth checking out this holiday season. Map of the listed decorated houses.

East Vancouver

• Three neighbors are embroiled in a friendly decorating competition at the corner of Southeast Riveridge Drive and Southeast 15th Street. Randy Peppers and his family have decorated their home, 11806 S.E. Riveridge Drive, for 20-plus years, and light their display from 5 to 11 p.m. nightly. Paul Lamb, 11812 S.E. Riveridge Drive, turns his lights on nightly from about 5:30 to 10 p.m. David Buffum is outside of his home, 11813 S.E. Riveridge Drive, dressed as Santa from 6 to 8 p.m. through tonight.
• The Buchanan family's house sports two Nativity scenes, Santa, nine reindeer, toy soldiers, a 40-foot candy cane on the roof and about 15,000 lights, which are on daily from 5 to 10 p.m. at 15309 N.E. Seventh St.
• The Strickland-Hibdon house, 2524 N.E. 176th Ave., is back after a year off, with lights on from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
• Anyone looking to air grievances can stop by Rick Harrington's home, 18801 N.E. 23rd St., where they will find more than 45,000 lights, man-made Christmas trees and, of course, a Festivus Pole.
• Seven homes teamed up for a light and sound show at 14000 N.E. Ninth St. with a variety of music, more than 35,000 lights across 50 Christmas trees, 460 stars and plenty of candy cane and gum drop lights. Tune into 90.3 FM to follow along with the playlist.

Central Vancouver

• At Bruce Preece's house, 607 Palo Alto Drive, visitors will find a lit-up 9-foot moose, a lifelike Nativity scene and a colorful 12-foot candle hanging on the back end of the home.
• While people keep comparing Debi and David Miller's home to the Griswolds', they don't think it's quite that bright. See for yourself at 2610 Grand Blvd., Unit A.
• At 3010 N.E. Stapleton Road, Don Gilbert's home features 30,000-plus lights and more than 100 glowing candy canes. The lights are on from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly, and will be on all night on Christmas and New Year's Eve, and Gilbert is often outside handing out candy canes.

West Vancouver

• Five homes combine for one huge display at 4616 N.W. Franklin St. There are more than 20,000 lights, a full-sized Nativity scene, gingerbread people, caroling penguins, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, Santa and characters from "Frozen." Lights and music nightly from 5 to 9 p.m., and all night of Christmas Eve, when there will also be free candy canes and it will snow on the hour between 4 p.m. and midnight.

Battle Ground

• Dolly Hoisington described her decorations as "over the top" in an email, and said she has an animated Christmas village that rivals any department store's. Her house is at 17514 N.E. 102nd Ave., Battle Ground.
• Heisen House Winery, 28005 N.E. 172nd Ave., Battle Ground, also has a large display of Christmas lights.

East County

• Roughly 30 homes teamed up to create an impressive display in Washougal. The tour of the homes starts at the lower end of D Street, Washougal, which turns into 51st Street.
• The Oleinik family's annual holiday light show is up and running again at their home, 3148 N.W. Quartz Place, Camas. It runs nightly from 4 to 10 p.m., and will continue through Sunday, and it features an animated light show choreographed to eight different songs.

North County

• Over at 998 E. 15th Circle, the cul-de-sac is filled with lights, Snoopy, numerous blow mold snowmen, Santa, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and the Grinch.


• When heading over to 12710 N.W. 50th Ave., make sure to tune the radio to 95.1 FM to hear the audio that accompanies a computerized light show. The show runs nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. through Christmas.

Hazel Dell

• At 11001 N.E. 11th Ave., Vancouver, visitors can find a home with lights hanging in the front and backyards, as well as Christmas music playing.

Five Corners

• Bobbi Kay and Stan Kirschenmann have Santa's Village in their front yard, at 7207 N.E. 92nd Ave., with more than 15,000 lights, Christmas music, a Christmas tree 30 feet tall and a Nativity scene.

“About 19 years ago, my wife and I used to decorate our house,” said David Buffum, 50. “We cut out these figures and painted them and had this big display, but nobody else in the neighborhood did, so we stopped. Paul kept trying to get us to set everything back up, so this year, we did.”

With three houses battling for Christmas decoration supremacy, there are three different methods toward achieving such glory. And three methods for keeping the lights on.

Peppers and his family have continued to collect and add lights to their decorations, which has a carnival theme, with a carousel, Ferris wheel and bumper car displays filled with light-up animals. It takes him about 10 days to set everything up, and he started this year the week of Thanksgiving. He had at least two helpers every day, between his four daughters, their friends and boyfriends.

Peppers had his front yard completely redone a few years ago, and he added four 30-amp circuits to his lawn outlets. He has 12 timers for the whole display on 12 separate circuits, a recent development after some difficulties with keeping the display on in previous years.

“You couldn’t do anything while the lights were on,” Peppers said. “The girls couldn’t even curl their hair without lights starting to flicker or just turning off.”

While a large portion of Peppers’ lawn — and house, and roof — is covered with decorations, he added a new wrinkle to the display last year: a walkway. It was a big hit last year, Peppers said, as people loved walking through to get a closer look at his glowing snowman, the flickering blue lights surrounding his pond and the colorful lights swirling around every tree and strewn over every bush in his yard.

And while Peppers’ electric bill doubles when his decorations are set up, it’s a price he’s happily willing to pay.

“We do it for the public and the community,” he said. “We love it when people come over and walk through the decorations. We’ve had so many people leave us gift baskets or send us Christmas cards, thanking us for doing this every year.”

While Lamb, 60, doesn’t have the help setting up that Peppers does, he feels that he’s a suitable contender for the Riveridge crown.

“That first year, my wife and daughter went out and bought some decorations, and that was it,” he said. “We didn’t know what we were up against. We didn’t compete with them at all.”

The next year, Lamb built a sleigh and attached it, along with some reindeer and a Santa, to his roof. He also built a yard arch and hung more lights and decorations off it. This year, Lamb added a new decoration to his yard, and he’s especially proud of it. It’s a tree positioned on top of a box with a 14 1/2 -pound Star of Bethlehem on top. It stands 37 feet off the ground.

“I wanted to get my decorations higher than (Peppers’) house, and I did it,” Lamb said. “Barely.”

Still, it’s only a few feet taller, and Peppers said he is already thinking of ways to regain the height advantage next year. If anything, it might bring even more visitors to the street. Both Lamb and Peppers said they hear from people regularly who see their lit-up houses while driving by on Interstate 205, and stop in the neighborhood, driving around until they find the source of the twinkling decorations. Lamb said buses from churches and retirement homes also regularly bring visitors to the street.

“I like to come out here at night and watch the kids run around all excited,” he said. “This is a lot of work. I want people to come see it.”

Unlike Peppers, Lamb doesn’t use timers. He turns his decorations off and on each night. He also switched over to mostly LED lights, which he said helps cut down on his electric bill.

Besides Santa and the Star of Bethlehem, Lamb has purple lights on trees, lit-up candy canes running along his fence and a blinking mailbox that opens and closes with Snoopy sitting on top and Woodstock hanging out inside.

It was Lamb who badgered Buffum to join the competition. Little did Lamb know, but Buffum was intent on bursting into battle in a big way.

“I was telling the guys that I was going to blow them out of the water, and get all the kids on my side of the street,” said Buffum, who lives across the street and one house over from Lamb. “I knew I couldn’t compete with their lights, so I had go with something else.”

The something else was loud Christmas music and a tent on his lawn, where Buffum sits while dressed as Santa.

“He didn’t tell me he was doing that,” said Kim Buffum, 45, David Buffum’s wife. “I just came home one Friday night and there was he was dressed like that.”

Buffum said he bought the suit on Craigslist, and decided to get involved in the battle this year for a few reasons.

“We did it for the kids,” he said. “We felt left out. You see all these people driving the street to see the decorations, and we didn’t have much.”

Along with the Santa Claus crowd appeal, the Buffums have cut-out characters, such as snowmen, Winnie The Pooh and Tigger. They also have large candle decorations lighting up their yard.

“All I’ve got is old school,” Buffum said. “You look online at everything we have, and it’s all listed as ‘vintage.’ ”

Buffum said he’s had a lot of fun dressing up as Santa, and Kim Buffum noticed her husband getting into character.

“One child came and sat on his lap and talked so much about getting a red bike,” Kim Buffum said. “Before they left, David walked over the boy’s father and said, ‘You’re getting him that red bike, right? I’ll get him the bike if you’re not. He has to get a red bike.’ The guy laughed and said he’s getting the bike.”

David Buffum added that all of his decorations, music included, are powered by one generator. He estimated he’s going to spend $60 on gas for the generator while his decorations are up.

But enough about the logistics. Onto what really matters: who’s the winner in the Riveridge Christmas Battle of 2015?

Both Lamb and Peppers said Buffum ran away with the title this year.

“The icing on the cake was him coming out as Santa,” Lamb said.

Buffum said while it’s all in good fun, he thinks Peppers is still the runaway champion.

On a recent week night, visitors to Southeast Riveridge Drive mostly agreed with Buffum.

“There were tons of lights,” Annabelle Yetter, 6, of Vancouver said about Peppers’ house. “I liked the carousel.”

Abby Jones, 6, Trevor DeWoody, 7, Hayden Huston, 12, Kaydence Jones, 9, and Ellie White, 11, all said Peppers’ house was their favorite.

“I liked the carnival theme,” Kaydence said.

Kayla Sherman, 7, was a fan of Buffum’s house, especially with a personal appearance by Santa. Her brother, Marshall Sherman, 4, liked Lamb’s house, specifically his “Peanuts” decorations.

Still, despite calling it a competition and thinking of ideas for decorations throughout the year, all three participants said it’s all in good fun, and something they hope to keep doing.

“This is my hobby, I don’t do anything else,” Lamb said. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had.”