Home for the Holidays
As a kid, I remember piling into my mom’s car and driving to the neighborhood with the best Christmas lights. (In my case, it was Ramar Estates.) Strands of yellow, multi-colored fluorescent bulbs, icicle lights — each house brighter than the next. Like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” lights are a part of everyone’s holiday. They remind us of a time when all you needed was a car ride with your family to get in the spirit. Here are three men who are bringing back the simple joy of Christmas lights with some not-so-simple displays.
Mark Hyatt – Plantation, Fla.
It all started with eight tiny reindeer. They made their debut appearance in 1990 when Mark and Kathy Hyatt began decorating their first home for Christmas. The reindeer are still around, but they’re joined by a handmade 19 foot tall Ferris wheel and more than 170,000 lights.
By normal standards — a few lights strung around the house to ring in the season — this is not your typical display. But even by extreme standards — houses that resemble Clark Griswold’s — this Florida home takes the fruitcake.
“Before it was just a normal display like everybody else’s, but then something snapped in my brain and I went crazy,” Hyatt said.
Let’s be honest: Hyatt’s displays were never like everybody else’s. His first display consisted of 20,000 lights. About six years ago when Hyatt ran out of space for all his decorations, he and his family moved to a larger property on an acre of land. The display takes up half an acre. It takes three months to decorate the property and three more to tear down and sort everything into 145 containers. The lights went on the day after Thanksgiving and will remain on until December 28.
It’s easy to see why the CBS Early Show, Redbook, and CNNMoney.com have all featured Hyatt’s house. You mention 170,000 Christmas lights, and the media starts calling. However, the reason people return year after year to see the display is because of Hyatt.
During this stressful, commercialized time of year, Hyatt’s given people a chance to stop and admire the lights. For some though, it’s more than that. Like the woman who lost her husband a few years ago. The only way her children could get her out of the house was by taking her to Hyatt’s display. Or the local senior police officer who works evenings so the younger officers can visit the display with their families. Or for Hyatt himself. When his mother died earlier this month, people he didn’t know approached him and offered condolences.
“When I realized I could move people that way by simply putting up Christmas lights, what can stop that?” Hyatt said. “If I can instill that into one person, I’ve done what I want to do for the year. And I think we do better than one.”
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