Archive for Thursday, December 20, 2001

Bright ideas

Residents light up neighborhoods with thousands of holiday lights

December 20, 2001

More than just the holiday spirit inspired the bevy of twinkling lights illuminating the Epperson house in Hesper Heights.

An extravagantly decorated home south of Lawrence got Eric Epperson motivated to go over the top with sparkling trees, shiny rafters and glowing Santa Claus and nativity figurines, the result of years of collecting Christmas lights and decorations.

The Eppersons won the grand prize in the Light Up Eudora Contest, sponsored by the Eudora Chamber of Commerce.

"It's kind of a surprise," Eric said. "Everyone in this cul-de-sac does something."

In fact, their neighbor, Hank Turnbaugh, won first place in the township.

"It's been neat that the whole neighborhood has gotten where they do it," Marge said.

Not only is decorating with Christmas lights a neighborhood event, but it's also a family affair. Marge Epperson puts up decorative candy canes along the yard, and oldest daughter Kelsey Epperson decorated the trees.

"It's her first year," Eric said. "She did great."

Marge said, "When we moved out here there weren't any trees. Now they're getting fun to decorate."

The lights have become more than just a hobby. They're a Thanksgiving family tradition.

"We go on our traditional walk and have a lighting ceremony of our own, our own little Plaza lighting," Eric said.

Getting the decorations up took about two weekends and four or five additional nights. This year the Eppersons started in October because hand surgery kept Eric from being able to put up the lights at the traditional time.

"Everybody was looking at me funny when I was putting them up in October," he said.

When the family won a $75 prize last year they used the money to purchase new materials. When someone asked him last year how many lights it took to decorate the house, Eric didn't know and decided he would keep track this year. After calculating an estimation by walking around the house and counting strands, he estimated they used 6,000 small-bulb lights and 650 large-bulb lights.

"You get to hanging them, and you just forget," Eric said.

In Eudora on North Birch Street, the Eatons have a spectacle of their own. Lights of all colors decorate their deck, swing set and everything in between, a display that earned them first place in the city.

The display took the family three full days, said Terry Eaton, and most of the decorations were new this year. He estimated they used 15,000 lights, including 600 feet of lighted garland.

"Even when I was out putting them up people would say how good they looked," he said.

Terry and Debbie Eaton also use their decorating expertise to help neighbors and family set up their own light displays. This year, even 6-year-old Michael Eaton got involved for a little while, anyway.

"He gets tired and wants to play," Terry said.

The unseasonably warm weather worked in the favor of those who go all out when putting up Christmas lights.

"It was nice all Thanksgiving, and all I could think of was, 'Man, I could get my lights up,'" Terry said.

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