Thursday, May 23, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
The Aldrich home on Williams Dive in Independence has been known to draw crowds during the Christmas season for it incredible castle-themed light display.
December 18, 2012
POLK COUNTY -- Keith Aldrich's home has been a punchline to a joke in his Independence neighborhood during the holiday season.
"When we turn on the lights, there will be a brownout," Aldrich said, laughing.
That's never happened, though Aldrich does take responsibility for the occasional traffic jam of spectators on Williams Drive.
Every year by Dec. 1, Keith and Dee Aldrich's two-story home becomes an illuminated winter castle -- literally. A plywood facade extends 60 feet across the front of the residence, painted and featuring multiple towers. Twenty-nine moving dolls, nutcrackers and other characters sit behind Plexiglas displays.
There's lights, too. All told, there are roughly 18,000 LED and fluorescent lights and spotlights.
"All you have to do is follow the glow," Aldrich said.
Even the biggest grinch loves a good holiday display. Sadly, there isn't a residential area in Polk County where Christmas decorations are widespread a la Keizer's Gubser Neighborhood or Portland's Peacock Lane.
Keith Aldrich strings lights on the plywood castle facade of his home in Independence on Nov. 28. The family sets up and lights the elaborate display before Dec. 1 each year.
Still, there are gems to be found and homeowners enthusiastic -- maybe overly so -- when it comes to making their residences shine.
The Thanksgiving leftovers were only just tucked away before John Peterson of Monmouth was out decorating his home on a rainy day in late November.
Peterson's home on Park Place South is entirely illuminated with a combination of big C9 bulbs that have been discontinued, smaller lights and LEDs that he can change the color of by remote.
"The problem is figuring out the wiring," said Peterson, who entered his home in the Monmouth-Independence "Griswold Award," a decoration competition inspired by the movie "Christmas Vacation."
"I can never remember what I did the year before," Peterson said.
His piece de resistance is a life-size nativity scene -- complimented by spotlights and music from speakers on his porch. Peterson said it took a few months to build and paint the about a dozen plywood figures.
John Peterson sets up the life-size nativity scene that is a highlight of his home's decorations Nov. 23 in Monmouth.
"Christmas is a favorite time of year for me," said Peterson, a commercial pilot. "It's been that way for me since I was a kid and I just like to share that spirit."
You would be hard-pressed to miss what's probably the brightest spot in Dallas: Larry Weiss' home along Fir Villa Road.
It entails, well, everything. Lit arches that people can walk or drive through, angels, penguins and reindeer. Lights are draped over or strung through every available shrub and tree.
"I talked to a guy once who works with lighting and he said there's maybe 40,000 to 50,000 lights out here now," Weiss said. "Maybe there is ... but I sure ain't going to count them."
In 2009, Weiss added a train to his collection; he had a friend build a moving steel locomotive and cars almost big enough to sit in that glide around a 50-foot diameter track in the frontyard.
How do you power a display that looks almost more appropriate for Disneyland than the Willamette Valley?
Larry Weiss' home on Fir Villa Road in Dallas features a train carrying Santa Claus on a 50-foot diameter track, in addition to the 40,000 to 50,000 lights around the property.
Time and money. Weiss has spent perhaps $6,000 to $7,000 on electrical upgrades and has gone from a 200 amperage service -- which is what most houses have - to 400 amps.
"The power bill last year ran between $600 and $700 a month," Weiss said. "It was more when I first started, but that's because I didn't use as many LEDs as I do now."
The process for decorating starts in early November. Weiss guessed it takes him and a friend almost 100 hours to set up and wire everything.
Weiss said his significant other shares his lighting obsession.
"She's got four Christmas trees," Weiss said. "She's got her project, too."
Keith Aldrich said his display began as a small tower display over his garage. The facade grew every year, and with it, more lighting.
To accommodate it, he's installed six separate 20 amp breakers around the home. All of the lights and characters are controlled via 10 switches.
Saturdays in Decembers are usually busy, Aldrich said. If he or family members are home, they hand out candy canes.
When is enough enough?
"That's what my wife asks," Aldrich said. "She won't let me get the scale model train I want that you can actually ride.
"If I had that, I have a whole backyard waiting that we can decorate."