Plugging in the spirit

Traditions include planning on cost of electricity

Posted: Monday, December 12, 2005


  Photo by M. Scott Moon

Photo by M. Scott Moon

As the holidays grow ever nearer, some decide to hang a few strands of lights from roof rafter to be festive, but a few people take the task of decorating to the extreme, covering almost every square inch of their home and yard with illuminations.

“I call it the production,” said Gary Hale of Soldotna, in regard to the thousands of lights, balloons, figurines and other decorations he and his wife, Sharon, put around the house, on the house and throughout the yard.

“It takes me at least four days, working from 10 a.m. ’til dusk, to get it all up. That’s if I have help with the screwing, bolting and stapling,” Hale said.

Putting up all these decorations isn’t just a time investment for Hale, though. It’s a financial investment, as well.

“I get pretty serious about it. I’ve probably got a couple thousand dollars in lights and decorations,” he said.

Hale also is continually adding to his festive illuminations.

“Every year I go online and look in the stores for new and unusual items. I probably spend $300 to $400 more each year,” he said.

There also is the increase in his electricity bill from running the lights from 5 p.m. until as late as midnight.

“When the lights are on, you can see the meter spinning. My electric bill goes up $75 to $125 extra, but I don’t mind it. I just budget for it,” Hale said.

As to why he spends so much time and money on this seasonal pastime learned from his folks, Hale said the answer is easy. “I do it as a delight for the community. A lot of people enjoy it. I think I would probably get hassled pretty bad if I didn’t do it.”

Like the Hale’s, Scott and Lisa Blischke of Soldotna also take holiday decorating seriously.

“We really got into it when we got our first house. Over the last seven years together — for what we’ve got inside and out — we’ve probably invested $10,000. We also have a set budget of $500 to $1,000 to add stuff each year,” said Scott Blischke.

As to why the Blischkes do it, they said it’s all part of spreading the spirit of the season.

“The neighbors say they enjoy it and it gets them putting up their lights. Also, the kids — my own and the neighborhood kids — love it,” he said.

Laurie Speakman of Soldotna said she also goes overboard with her lights and decorations. She purchases stands of lights so regularly at Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna, they know her by name.

“I go all out, and Trustworthy supports my habit. I’ve got 18,000 lights and 75 percent of them have come from there,” she said.

Speakman said once home with the lights, she adorns not just her home, but also numerous homemade creations.

My husband (Terry) and I designed about 15 percent of what’s out there. We’ve got ‘Merry Christmas’ spelled out on the roof in wood. We make trees out of wood, wire and pipe. We make a bunch of things and staple lights to all of it,” she said.

Speakman said she looks forward to decorating for the holidays, the way most kids look forward to the Christmas morning.

“I started putting up lights after Halloween, I just couldn’t wait. I was too excited,” she said.

While individuals who light up their homes see some increase in their electric bills, Homer Electric Association’s public relations coordinator Joe Gallagher said the effect that holiday lights have on the sale of kilowatt hours is minimal at his end.

“As far as the overall usage within the system, it’s a blip on the screen. Christmas lights hardly take any power at all,” he said, adding that winter time temperatures have a much bigger impact on power sales.

However, for those who do notice an increase in their bill, HEA has a solution to offset the costs of taking holiday lighting to the max. HEA sponsors local chambers of commerce to support lighting contest by making $300 in energy credits available to winners of the Kenai, Soldotna, Anchor Point, Seldovia and Nikiski chambers.

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