Not sure how it all started, but my late father, Dave — he was crazy about Christmas.
When we were kids, there was no shortage of decorations around the house and our parents always made sure we had the latest and greatest gifts under the tree. We were truly blessed.
His near-fanatical need to have the most decorated house on his Charleswood street, however, really took on a life of its own when he was about 50 — the age I am now.
Sadly, we lost him to cancer at only 62 years old, back in 2006. The wonderful memories of his Christmas antics will forever live on in my mind’s eye.
It started innocently enough with strings of Christmas lights that seemed to grow longer each year. Then he began adding homemade wooden candy canes adorned with even more lights.
Then things really took off.
Although he was in the steel business, he enjoyed working with wood, and his workshop soon became dedicated to his love for all things Christmas.
One summer, he carefully built eight near life-sized reindeer out of wood, pulling a sleigh with a massive inflatable Santa at the reins. Rudolph’s red nose lit up the whole works, which he mounted on the roof of his garage! (I kid you not).
It was spectacular.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I’d stop by to have a look at his progress, often finding him overhead, precariously poised on a ladder, installing even more lights on his two-storey house.
At the time I would laugh hysterically at the sight of my dear old dad spending most, if not all of his free time, making his yard look spectacular for his neighbours, who over time became not only his friends, but his fans.
I vividly remember pulling up one evening just a few days before Christmas and being worried something had happened because there was so much traffic on his typically quiet street.
It turned out to be a parade of folks simply driving by to have a look at his yard.
As I walked up to the house, the sounds of all those articulating and inflatable decorations was drowned out by Christmas carols blaring from the elaborate speaker system he installed around the yard.
As I stepped into his garage, the smell of sawdust filled the air and he was cutting out another decoration — nearby a table full of other pieces of freshly painted homemade handicrafts looked like an assembly line of love.
I told him about all the cars out on the street and he just smiled and said, sometimes he goes out and says hello, but, that night he had work to do.
I’m sure I then spent the next couple of hours cutting out decorations with a scroll saw.
His homemade decorations adorn our home throughout the Christmas season, and my brother, Allen, and his family have the wooden reindeers and the Santa sleigh in Ottawa. But one of my biggest regrets is not taking any photos of my dad’s yard when it was fully decked out.
It really was a sight to behold. He proudly compared himself to Clark Griswold of Christmas Vacation fame.
So, on that note, do me a favour. If you or someone you love has gone above and beyond to spread the Christmas cheer, please send me a photo of their holiday home and a short description outlining why they deserve the first annual Free Press Homes "Sparky" Award.
Sparky was the nickname Clark Griswold’s wife had for him in that Christmas classic. That movie always boosts my Christmas spirit, and always makes me think of my dad.
I haven’t figured out what the prize will be yet, but I can guarantee you, it will scream CHRISTMAS!
Just remember, folks — first we remember.
No Christmas decorations until Sunday. Then let those lights shine brightly!
The Sparky Award
Send us a photo and brief description of your favourite Christmas decorated yard, anywhere in Manitoba, and Free Press Homes editor Willy Williamson will pick his favourite and award one lucky Christmas aficionado with a gift basket — and the first ever Sparky Award.
Send a brief description, contact information and your photos to: email@example.com