Let there be lights

Extravagant holiday displays become neighborhood traditions

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/17/19

David Martin is beginning to be known around his neighborhood as “the Christmas lights guy.” His house, at 831 S. Kline Way in Lakewood, is known for its extravagant display of multi-colored …

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Let there be lights

Extravagant holiday displays become neighborhood traditions

Posted

David Martin is beginning to be known around his neighborhood as “the Christmas lights guy.”

His house, at 831 S. Kline Way in Lakewood, is known for its extravagant display of multi-colored LED lights, beaming in a bright bluish-neon hue that illuminates the neighborhood. Each year since 2017, when Martin and his wife, Katie, moved in, the display has steadily grown. Last year, Martin outdid himself with more than 10,000 LED bulbs in all.

Martin had plans to do more. He hit the stores for half-off sales of LED string lights of every color the day after Christmas last year. In September, he started counting each bulb one-by-one. Standing at the foot of his neighbor’s driveway Dec. 9, gazing at his creation, he’s proud to recite the number: 22,225.

“Like Chevy Chase,” Martin said, a nod to his favorite Christmas movie, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” and the actor who played Clark Griswold. “I counted every single one.”

He unveiled his new display Nov. 29 to the neighborhood.

“I try to make it look pretty uniform. I really take pride in that,” Martin said. There are no flashing lights. No lights choreographed to music. "I’m old school. I like them on and I like them to just blind you.”

Martin vows to surpass 25,000 bulbs by next year — Clark’s number (250 strands of 100-count lights) in the movie. There’s plenty of space left on his home to add. His sits with a lot of exposure to the street, which gives him plenty of room to plant dozens of handmade “candy canes” and strew the yard with tomato cages fashioned into mini Christmas trees.

A display this full requires being thrifty to keep it under budget. His yard is full of neighbors’ old decorations he rewired to work as new again. Martin was a journeyman electrician but now operates heavy equipment for a construction company. He hits the stores after Christmas for the best deals on lights. By next year, Martin said he will easily beat the 25,000-bulb mark. For that, he’ll need a lift bucket to get the tops of the trees. At some point he wants to line the entire siding of the house with lights.

One neighbor pitched him an idea to create an LED “zipline” from his to Martin’s house across the street. Martin is already dreaming of ways to make that work.

Martin said he thinks about the Bible verse John 1:5. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." He refers to that as his inspiration for his display.

He couldn’t do it alone, Martin said. He has a 6-month-old baby named Matthew, who usually ends his fussing when he is taken outside to see the lights. He couldn’t do it without the help of his wife.

Some houses’ lights are worth taking the long route home to admire. The house of Ronald Kloewer, at 5041 S Elati Street in Englewood, can only be fully enjoyed by parking on the street to walk the short trail though the yard and up the driveway to marvel at the display.

It’s not uncommon for the couple to be sitting in their living room and hear joyous shouts and screams from children outside or to catch the occasional festive adult dancing with their animatronic Santa on their front porch.

“That’s what keeps you going,” Kloewer said.

Ron couldn’t possibly count every single bulb like Martin did. The only way to really calculate the job is by how long it takes to set up: For six people, it takes about 300 hours total. Fourteen circuits are used. Two hundred amps. His Xcel Energy bill often triples during the holidays, sometimes quadruples.

Every year for the past 24 years, that work materializes into one of the greatest house light displays in the Denver area.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Ron said. “Now we’ve gotten to where we have people all the time saying, ‘We’ve been coming here for years.’ You almost feel like you’re going to let them down if you quit.”

On their porch bannister is a family heirloom that says “Best Wishes/Peace Joy Love/The Kloewers.” His father, Richard, created the piece himself and gave it to Ron when Richard grew too old to carry on with his display nearby, which became a staple in the community until its final season in 2011. Ron Kloewer took after his dad and started his own display in 1995.

“We’ve got a few new people in the neighborhood,” Kloewer said. Some are notified when they buy a house near his that he does this display every year.

“There’s so much fun in it and you sometimes have people say, ‘I haven’t had a good week’ and this just changes the whole thing,” Kloewer said. “That’s neat when you hear things like that.”

Certain people have goals in mind when putting their house lights together for the year. For the Downings in Parker, at 19114 E Oak Creek Way, they didn’t expect to be the “Christmas light people” of their neighborhood, but they’ve embraced the title.

“I liked it as a kid. My dad always did it. He didn’t go crazy like this, but we always had a display,” Dean Downing said.

“I was always decorating before my mom could ever get the lights up,” Margot Downing said. “It was in me waiting to come out.”

For seven years the Downings have grown their display. This year they won a Stroh Ranch neighborhood contest for “Most Festive House.” They hope to eventually be seen from Parker Road, which is just about a half-mile to the east. To do that, they want to put a giant tree on top of their house. This year they asked the neighbors to use part of their fence for an LED sign that says “Noel.”

“A lot of people stop and thank us. They appreciate it and look forward to it,” Dean said. “That’s always fun to hear.”

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