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That’s the spirit

Locals light up the night

POSTED: December 16, 2009 4:00 a.m.
Frank Reddy Dawson Community News/

Robert Denholm said inspiration for decorations at his home came partly from the 1989 movie, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

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For some, holiday cheer is measured in watts.


Driven by the Christmas spirit, a handful of Dawson County residents toil in front yards for months leading up to Dec. 25.


Locals like Robert and Mona Denholm start stringing lights as early as October, fascinated by festive lawn art and the joy it spreads.


“It’s just fun,” Robert Denholm said. “We’ve not got any kids, but the kids in the neighborhood come running up to the house screaming and laughing. They just go nuts over it.”


A snow-white Christmas tree, nativity scene and a glowing angel adorn the front porch of the Chestatee Point home, which is draped with blue bulbs. The porch posts are wrapped in red lights.


Around the corner, a device projects images of Santa and a snowman, which glide along the side of the house.


“I get a kick out of it. I suppose I’m a big kid at heart,” Denholm said. “When I see somebody stopped outside, looking at the lights, it’s a great feeling.”


Fellow county resident Barbara Wallace agreed.


“It’s nice to know other people enjoy it,” she said. “We just like to do this and make people happy.”


Every holiday season, Wallace and husband Clyde decorate their yard with plastic likenesses of choir children, cartoon characters and Biblical figures that light up at nighttime for passers-by.


Some who drive past the home on Hwy. 53 East, between downtown Dawsonville and Ga. 400, have called it “a small-scale Christmas theme park.”

Bob Banks of Forsyth County passes the home several nights a week on his work commute.


“They go all out,” Banks said. “You can tell they love doing it.”


Wallace said sometimes drivers stop to take a closer look.


“One year, we had five cars pulled over looking at the Christmas stuff,” she said. “Some people come back every year to see it.”


Denholm said he also has repeat visitors to his holiday display.


“We’ve got regulars that come by and bring their grandkids,” he said. “Some nights, I’ll be out there walking the dog and the neighbors will stop by and shout, ‘good job.’”


The visits begin around Thanksgiving, he added. “That’s when I flick the stuff on for the first time and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t blow up the house.”

Denholm blames “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” partly for his yuletide embellishments.


“Chevy Chase is an inspiration,” said Denholm, referencing the actor’s character who is obsessed with holiday decorating in the 1989 film.


While some of Denholm’s decorations are boilerplate holiday adornments, others are of a quirkier nature.


“I don’t know what an elephant’s got to do with Christmas,” he said, pointing at a knee-high, plastic pachyderm on the lawn. “But I thought, ‘Hey it lights up, it’s wearing a Santa hat, why not?’”


Decorations in Denholm’s yard run the gamut, but each has something in common. “It all seems to brighten up the area, you know?”


He smiled, glancing around at the wide variety of Christmas gadgets.


“It’s not keeping up with the Joneses, we just enjoy it,” he said.


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