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Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
For the past 60 years, taking a drive down Christmas Street has been a tradition for many local sightseers. Residents say the lights are their gift to the city.

It's cabin fever that drives Forrest Nunley outside to adorn his house, 805 E. 18th Ave., with Christmas lights.

The Avenues resident says during what he calls the "mud months," when it's too chilly to go fishing but isn't snowmobiling season yet, he needs something outdoorsy to do. Making beautiful displays with Christmas lights and decorations provides him just such an activity. He takes great delight in decorating his home with around 30,000 Christmas lights.

Nunley begins in October, putting up purple and orange lights for Halloween, which become part of his Christmas display. Every year his display grows, helped along by annual visits to the after-Christmas sales where he can get lights for 75 percent off. This year Nunley added five inflatables, tulip lights and a set of 12-inch bulb lights hanging from the roof.

Nunley's pride and joy, he says, are the plastic blow molds scattered throughout his display. Most can't be purchased in stores because they don't sell them anymore. He finds his molds in antique shops or secondhand stores such as Deseret Industries.

What motivates him to continue his lighting display is seeing the joy it brings to passers-by.

"It's so much work. I wouldn't want to do it if someone can't enjoy it," he said.

When John and Rosemary Godfrey moved to their home at 1545 E. Glen Arbor Drive 40 years ago, little did they know they were becoming part of one of Salt Lake City's oldest traditions.

For the past 60 years, taking a drive down Christmas Street has been a family tradition for many valley residents. Rosemary says residents on the street consider the lights as their Christmas gift to the city. They have even formed a Christmas Street Association and each year give out Christmas stockings to all the children on the street.

"We've never had anyone who didn't want to put lights up," she said, noting that if someone is unable to put up their own lights, other residents on the street are willing to help them.

Rosemary says there are plenty of other houses around the valley decorated more than Christmas Street, but it's the tradition that keeps people coming back year after year.

Ned Searle has been spreading Christmas cheer with his lighting display at 785 W. 5930 South in Murray for the past 17 years.

Searle says he begins putting lights up in November but doesn't turn them on until after Thanksgiving. For the first time this year, Searle has a speaker outside his home constantly playing Christmas music from FM100.

He doesn't know exactly how many lights are brightening his Murray home but estimates it's around 10,000. This year he tried something new and created a lighting display to hang over his windows with PVC pipe that has white lights hanging down to form a curtain over the windows with green lights wrapped around the pipe itself. One such display covers all the windows of his house, which are rimmed in red. Searle hopes the creations can simplify decorating a little bit.

"You learn as you go other ways to make decorating simpler," he said.

Putting up Christmas lights has always been something that Jerry and Lorraine Turner, 2891 E. 7375 South in Cottonwood Heights, have done.

Each year they've added lights, and it now takes Jerry about four days to decorate. One of the distinguishing features of their lighting display is the four pillars in front of their home decorated like candy canes with 32 strings of red and white rope lights twined around them.

The Turners also make a special effort to decorate the wrought iron fence around their yard and the gate to the east of their garage.

"(Jerry) puts so much effort and so much time (into our display), so it really looks special," Lorraine said.

Decorating his house for Christmas is more than simply hanging a few strings of lights for Alan Moss.

The Sandy resident, who lives at 1528 E. Buttercup Drive in Sandy, keeps a file with drawings of his home plotting the layout of his 20,000-30,000 Christmas lights every year. This year Moss added about 4,000 lights to his display, which changes every year, he said. He begins hanging lights in mid-October or early November and continues well into December.

The process has been simplified this year with the addition of six dedicated circuits, which saves his family from having extension cords running all over the house and offers greater protection against blown circuits.

Moss says neighborhood children refer to his home as "the gingerbread house" and call him Mr. Griswold. Icicle lights hanging from the eaves and under windows along with strings of C9 bulbs that crisscross the roof and add color to the icicle lights help give his home its gingerbread appearance. The front yard is rimmed with red and green. The house is so bright that Moss says many cars passing by will slow down and just look. Some even pull into the parking lot across the street.

Moss says he doesn't dare look at his electricity bill in December lest it discourage him from continuing to decorate.

"It's fun to do. I plan to add to it every year," he said. "It doesn't look good to me, because I know what I want to do with it."

Hanging Christmas lights is a 25-hour ordeal for the McCarthy family of 2874 W. 9435 South in South Jordan.

Steve McCarthy says he normally begins hanging lights around mid-November, although this year he didn't start until Thanksgiving weekend. He does his display all from memory, because it's the same every year.

Lights cover the entire house, from icicle lights hanging from the eaves to strings of lights crisscrossing the roof. Trees, bushes and even the gate to the back yard are lined with lights. A moveable Santa waves at passers-by while another Santa and his reindeer are taking off. The sidewalk up to the front door is lined with lights.

One of their neighbors once told the McCarthys it wouldn't be Christmas if they didn't do their lights. Steve's wife, Denice McCarthy, says they would like to do more, but there isn't any space available.

"Everything's covered, so there's not a whole lot to add," she said.

When Dorrel and Mary Decker remodeled their West Valley City home, 3895 S. Redwing St. (2900 West) eight years ago, a Christmas lighting display was part of it.

"When we remodeled and designed it, we did some of the peaks and everything with Christmas lights in mind," Mary Decker said.

Prior to that time, it had been years since the Deckers put lights up, because one year they put them up and some neighborhood children smashed the lights. After the remodel, with a peak and more square footage on their home, they decided to start hanging lights again. It normally takes three or four days to put the display up, working in spurts of three or four hours.

A few years ago the Deckers' lighting display inspired their neighbor during his battle with cancer. His hospital bed was downstairs, and he could look out his window and see their lights, which cheered him up, as he was bedridden at the time. Mary said they even placed lights in a certain place so he could see them. Although he and his wife have since moved elsewhere, the Deckers continue their lighting tradition.

"It's a fun project that we look forward to," Mary said. "It makes this time of year fun when it's cold outside; it's dark (and) the days are short."

When Greg and Bev Soter built their house at 1246 N. Shepard Lane in Farmington five years ago, they thought it had the look of a gingerbread house.

When it came time to decorate it with Christmas lights, they decided to expand upon this look. Their home is now filled with at least 50 yard ornaments, which include lollipops, candy canes and peppermints to give it a Candy Land feel, Greg said.

When they were searching for lollipops to put up, the Soters couldn't find any that they liked, so they made their own with Styrofoam, PVC pipe and rope lights. Greg says they enjoy watching the fast-moving cars slow down as their eyes catch the bright yard, which also has 15 lighted Christmas trees.

"It's a lot of fun. We enjoy it, and the neighborhood enjoys it," he said. "We want to keep the Christmas cheer going."


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