Lighting up the holidays

Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette

Residents plugging in elaborate displays

Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005

Life imitates art for many homeowners during the holiday season.

In "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," Clark Griswold blinds neighbors and blows fuses with the incredible amount of decorative lights on his house. In a similar way, several local families take pride in massive, bright and festive holiday displays.

See for yourself

Visit for more information on the Urbana family's display. The Rice and Rodgers display is at 9705 Gas House Pike, New Market.

"I always thought my dad was a little bit like Clark Griswold. We joke and we use that line [from the movie]: 'You taught me everything I know about exterior illumination,'" said John Yaglenski, 39. 

"He put on some real cool, tasteful and well done lights. So I took that and kind of ran with it," he said.

For five years, the Yaglenski Family Holiday Light Spectacular has grown and grown.

The first year they moved into their Urbana home, the family put up "mild" decorations. It started with just a few displays but more lights were added and it soon grew to a neighborhood favorite and a hobby for John Yaglenski.

"People were a little disappointed that we got a late start this year," said his wife, Stacey. "Neighbors and kids would ask when the lights are going up until we finally turned them on."

The decorations are not limited to the house, but span their whole yard as well. Santa climbs a ladder to the roof, holiday characters skate on a twinkling pond, decorated trees blink in sequence and "snow" falls on the house from a disco ball on the lawn.

This year, the family hopes to add "Santa's Workshop," a 15-foot light display that shows an elf sorting presents from Santa's house.

"Everyone likes the displays, there's always cars that slow down to look at the lights," John said. "It's just a lot of fun to put up every year, and that's a part of why we keep doing it."

This year, the family broadcasts holiday music on 88.7 FM for cars that drive up. The music is only picked up close to their house so cars can listen to the music and enjoy the display.

Stacey Yaglenski said the family's electric bill only rises about $100 for the month of December, usually. The light display is on an automatic timer to control costs.

"They're only on for a few hours each night," John said.

Alan Staggers, a spokesman for Allegheny Power, said while the company notices an increased power use each December, it is nothing compared to the costs of winter heating and summer air-conditioning.

A typical string of lights has 100 bulbs and uses 50 watts of power.

"If you think about that 100-string light using 50 watts, 10 strings of 100 lights wouldn't use as much electricity as a blow-dryer which probably uses 1,200 to 1,500 watts - just to put it in perspective," he said.

"It can add up, of course the hours you leave them on play a role. So do the types of lights used," he said.

John Yaglenski said it takes 36 hours to put up the lights, but the effort and extra expense is well worth the reaction from friends and neighbors.

New Market family lights up the night

Kenny and Nancy Rice of New Market said they also put up a display to spread holiday cheer among neighbors and passers-by.

The New Market couple and neighbors Walter and Alice Rodgers set up an expansive display that takes up two yards along Gas House Pike.

"We actually cut back on the amount of lights in recent years," said Kenny Rice, 55. "But you know, we get more compliments and people say it looks like we keep adding more. Maybe they just notice them with the fewer lights," he said. "We do it for the neighbors, for the families that drive by, for those people coming home from a long day of work since there are so many more people running this road nowadays."

Nancy Rice keeps a scrapbook of thank-you letters neighbors have written since the display started in 1998.

Each year has had its own theme - the neighbors spell out festive messages in lights, such as "Happy Holidays" or "God Bless America" and "Support Our Troops."

Nancy Rice said she wanted to come up with a theme for the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts this season, but admitted it was difficult to sum up the feeling in a few words.

This year, the families used lights on the fence to wish everyone "Merry Christmas."

Holiday safety tips

Allegheny Power spokesman Alan Staggers recommended the following when decorating for the holidays:

*Always unplug a light string or decoration before replacing bulbs or fuses.

*Use extension cords designed for outdoor use and keep plugs out of snow and standing water.

*Use insulated staples and hooks to hang lights; do not staple, nail or tack them to surfaces.

*Timers are helpful tools for controlling displays. It is dangerous to leave lights on overnight.

*Do not plug too many items into an extension cord. It can cause it to overheat.

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