I went nearly 25 years without fantasizing about having “That House.”
Things changed when I started covering local holiday light displays for the Ledger-Enquirer.
Now, I frequently entertain visions of having a display that consumes enough power to make me hesitate before plugging in my blow dryer at night.
I want to attract a line of spectators who debate the merits of elegant white lights versus flashing colored lights.
During a recent series of interviews, someone directed me to PlanetChristmas, a how-to website for Christmas displays.
I spent 30 minutes researching terms I still don’t understand.
If this is a sickness, I don’t want to recover.
Neither do many of the local decorators I’ve profiled. There’s no harm in embracing your inner Griswold -- just ask these Columbus families.
The Ludy family, 5784 Ironstone Drive
For many local families, a trip to the Ludy home is as central to the holiday experience as hot chocolate and candy canes.
It’s easy to understand why.
The display spans 90,000 lights and decorations extend into neighbors’ yards. Jerry Ludy runs the lights with controls on his laptop computer. The display has its own website, Facebook presence and Twitter page.
When asked about his motivation, he echoes a sentiment common among die-hard designers.
“I do this for joy. What I’m trying to do is build memories,” said Ludy, 56, an environmental manager at the Kia plant. He and wife Edith have three adult children.
Ludy has grown accustomed to a standard set of questions.
How much money does the display add to his power bills? Now, the answer is around $200, thanks to a more energy-efficient lighting system.
He started this year’s setup process at the end of August. His home will once again host visits from Santa and collect money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Don’t worry, the transition won’t be too harsh for Ludy when the season ends.
“I play Christmas music year-round,” he said.
The deBrabant family, 6043 Ascot Way
William deBrabant’s planning diagram will convince you that holiday decorating efforts require an advanced degree. Still, he explains the process easily.
His family’s home annually boasts a display anchored by an elegant roof design. If you aspire to reach a Griswold level of fame, try these tips from deBrabant.
Know your power. “Don’t overload your circuits,” he said.
Remember maintenance. Your work doesn’t end once the display goes up. “The main thing is just keeping all the bulbs replaced,” said deBrabant, 46, who works as a controller for Victory Real Estate Investments.
Look for bargains. Decorating on a budget? You’ll score some of the best deals by shopping at the holiday clearance sales on Dec. 26, deBrabant said.
He and wife Angi have two children: 13-year-old Katelyn and 11-year-old Kyle, who seems poised to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The Podger family, 5322 Shanna Lane
It’s not rare for a holiday decorator to have an apprentice -- and sometimes, that apprentice gets to take a day off school.
Kaleb Podger, 10, missed a day of school to help his father David, a police officer, work on the Podger family’s light display. David’s father, Bill, also helped.
The Podger family also includes wife Morgan, as well as 9-year-old Trace and 3-year-old Addison.
Their decorations feature an eye-catching pole tree, which Kaleb said is now taller than last year’s tree.
Kaleb’s role in the process? “I hand my dad stuff and I go up on the roof with him,” he said, adding that he also helped with the extension cords. They started assembling the display shortly after Halloween.
Kaleb has simple advice for fellow decorators.
“You have to work as a team,” he said.
The wisdom emphasizes one of decorating’s greatest seasonal benefits: a family pride that comes with admiring rooftop Santas, rope lights and strategically placed Santas.
You know, the stuff that makes blowing a few fuses worthwhile.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at email@example.com or 706-571-8516.