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Holiday lights just as much fun for those who display them

Published: Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 12:11 a.m. CDT
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(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Ken Copenhaver tends to the Christmas ferris wheel decoration in his Sycamore front yard. Copenhaver and his next-door neighbor are known for their grand display of Christmas lights on Gerry Lane.

SYCAMORE – They say they do it for the kids, but it’s a pretty safe bet the families who go wild with holiday decorations are just kids at heart themselves.

Although a lot of homes are lit with twinkling lights and holiday decorations, some people spend weeks getting everything just right. At least one local family has been decorating for almost 40 years, occasionally with the help of family and friends.

Smoky and Lin Nevitt, at 219 Alfred Drive, have decorated their Sycamore home with thousands of lights for 38 years. He figures he put out about 15,000 lights this year.

“When I was working, I took the whole week of Thanksgiving off,” Smoky Nevitt said. “Now I start the first week of December. I work until I get tired and quit for the day.”

Nevitt said he has constructed many of the displays, including the sleigh and horses, a 10-foot star, trees and candles. Last year, friends gave them two lighted angels for the yard. Nevitt said a lot of the lights didn’t work, so he had to take them apart and reconstruct them before they could be displayed.

Only once have the Nevitts suffered any vandalism.

“One year someone stole our Mary and baby from the creche,” he said. “I drove around looking for them but never found them.”

They were replaced just a day later by friends who passed on their Nativity display to the Nevitts.

A little farther outside Sycamore, on Gerry Lane off Plank Road, visitors are greeted by the lights of two neighbors who have competed – in a friendly way – for the most decorations.

“He finally gave up,” joked Ken Copenhaver of his neighbor Andy Krafft.

“I like to mess with [Copenhaver],” Krafft said.

Copenhaver said he started decorating in 1996, adding a little more every year. He said it takes him about six weeks to finish his display.

“The toughest part is running all the cords to be sure I don’t overload any of the [electrical] circuits in the house,” Copenhaver said.

The Nevitts had help rewiring a portion of their home from electrician Bud Dresser specifically for the Christmas display.

Both homeowners said they see a small spike in their electric bill, but don’t mind the additional cost.

“We plan and save for this all year,” Lin Nevitt said.

One year, she said, their finances were so strapped they considered not displaying lights.

“Our kids got together and told us we had to put the lights out and they would do without Christmas presents,” Lin Nevitt said.

They all say they put up their displays for children to enjoy.

“We’ve lived here for about 17 years, and the first year, we got Christmas cards from the neighbors telling us how much the kids like the lights,” Krafft said.

“We have people pull in our driveway just to sit under the lights,” Nevitt said.

Their driveway is covered, from the street to the garage, with an archway covered in multi-colored lights.

Sometimes folks bring cameras, too.

“We have people stop to get pictures of their kids with the Santa in the chair,” Copenhaver said, referring to a life-sized Santa on his lawn. “He moves and talks.”

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