Go see the lights

All it takes is a nighttime drive to see many in the Hanover area are in the holiday spirit. There are many impressive displays of lights and other decorations to be seen. Some of the more impressive and unusual follow in the list below:

119 Little John Court, Hanover The flashing lights from the Rees family's display can be seen from Black Rock Road, in the area of the South Western High School tennis courts. Those wishing to visit the 7,000-light display, which is set to music, must approach from Baltimore Street. Turn onto Squire Way, which is across from Wendy's, then turn left onto Friar Way, and left again onto Little John Court. Tune your radio to 107.1 FM. In addition to holiday songs, the playlist includes "I'm sexy and I know it."

12 N. Fourth St., McSherrystown The Bowers family's backyard display includes 50 inflatables, which can be seen from the alley (Maple Street) that runs alongside the home. Kids love this display, but traffic travels in both directions in the narrow alley, and there can be backups. At night, many people park in the ACNB Bank parking lot and walk over to view the display, Deb Bowers said.

355 N. George St., Hanover Known as the Wish Tree, this display on a small dogwood tree at George Street and Grant Drive features an astonishing 25,000-plus twinkle lights. The tree was decorated for years by Dick Krummeck, his wife, Mary Lou, and their family. Since Dick's death about two years ago, his grandson Chris Hoke has led the decoration. Wishes made while staring into the tree's brilliant glow just might come true.

322 N. Forney St., Hanover The Ricucci family display of old-time light-up Christmas decorations is only about one-quarter the size it's been in some years, Jerry Ricucci said. But with about 20 large lanterns and giant lighted ornaments, it remains impressive and exceptionally bright. You just don't see this type of display much anymore.

414 Main Street, McSherrystown While small, the Life Discovery Church display features lights strung to represent a dozen Christmas trees and is set to music. Tune your radio to 94.1 FM. The display also offers a glimpse of how controlled-light shows work. Pull up curbside and notice how each strand of lights is hooked to a different extension cord.

28 Moul Ave., Hanover There's a lot of holiday spirit in this little lawn on Moul Avenue. Favorite decorations this year include Santa hanging by his fingertips from a second-story window ledge and an inflatable merry-go-round that, at least sometimes, goes around backwards.

It is a story not all that different from that of the wise men and the shepherds.

A woman driving on Black Rock Road, near the South Western High School campus, saw a bright light shining in the distance, and knew it had to lead somewhere.

She traveled until she found it, tucked back in a neighborhood that, while it's just off Baltimore Street in Hanover, is easy to pass by without even knowing it's there.

And there she met Brian Rees, the man who, by turning his Little John Court home into a beacon of holiday spirit, was responsible for the radiating glow.

And that story the woman told to Rees last year, as he was filming his annual display, is among the reasons he not only continues with what now is a 7,000-light show that's set to music sent over radio waves, but that he strives to make it ever better.

This year, more people are finding their way to the somewhat-out-of-the-way display, too.

A friend and co-worker of Rees' pinpointed his display on Google Maps.

 The Rees home at 119 Little John Court in Hanover. The home is decorated with dancing Christmas lights set to music that is tuned to 107.1 on your car
The Rees home at 119 Little John Court in Hanover. The home is decorated with dancing Christmas lights set to music that is tuned to 107.1 on your car radio. (THE EVENING SUN -- SHANE DUNLAP)

"I'll have to thank him for that," Rees said.

And he said his neighbors, who always are quite supportive of his annual efforts to brighten up the block, report they've seen a few more vehicles pulling up to the display this year for a look and a listen.

There are a whole lot of lights to look at. Bands of lights on the rooftop, tightly packed lights wrapping around the trees in the front lawn, lighted angels and snowmen, and several Christmas tree-shaped light displays.

A computer programmer by trade, Rees said he enjoys designing the software-driven displays. Four light-control boxes, each of which accepts 16 plugs, allows him to finely tune the bursts and blasts, trickles and twinkles.

People seem to get so much joy out of the display, Rees said. And the evidence of that joy - like the woman who found her way in from Black Rock Road, or the little girl who remarked to her father, "Daddy, look, it's a huge Christmas tree" as Rees set up one of his smaller displays in a previous year - keep him coming back, and trying to make his display bigger and better.

It's nice to think families go out together just to spend an evening viewing displays like his, Rees said.

Rees said everybody always seems to want to know how much it costs. And the truth is that his electric bill jumps by about $100 a month when he runs the display.

Is it worth it?

"Absolutely," he said.

Rees said also that he looks to bring variety to each year's display, though he admits he found it tough this year, as the father of two daughters - one 20 and the other 3. Yet, little Kali helped make 2012's display different.

"The purple lights are her tree," he said of the brilliant drip-pattern display in front of the home. "Purple is her favorite color, so, she's a little spoiled."

Rees also looks to change up the playlist heard by tuning to 107.1 FM outside the house. And in addition to a lineup of holiday favorites, this year's rotation includes LMFAO's "I'm sexy and I know it."

He said he can't argue with his wife's assessment that "it's not a Christmas song." But he said he likes it anyway, and it goes a long way toward his goal of changing things up.

"I don't want people to drive by and say, 'I saw this last year,'" Rees said.

Area churches celebrate Las Posadas

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Oddly, perhaps, it nagged at Brent Bowers.

Something just wasn't right with his backyard Christmas display, the collection of spotlit inflatable characters that has become a place for Christmastime sight-seeing in McSherrystown.

After the routine 60 hours of work required to set up the air pumps, run the extension cords and find the perfect spot to showcase each character, then make sure each is well lit, Bowers realized something was missing.

When he took a head count in this toybox come to life, he seemed to come up one short.

There were 49. Why not 50?

So he went out and bought a purple hippopotamus.

Now, all was well and he could rest.

"It's my husband's baby," Deb Bowers said of the display, as she took on the role of family spokesperson, explaining he's a little shy.

There's nothing reserved about Brent Bowers' display, though - a collection that appears perched in stadium seating, and literally is larger than life. He uses the items in the yard, like the swingset and swimming pool to put the characters on different levels and give it a sense of depth.

And while the purple hippopotamus now is part of the collection, if you look close, one other character is missing, Deb Bowers said.

"We have two nativities, but no Santa," she said, "because (Christmas is) about Jesus."

And there are some other rules, too, associated with the display.

Brent tried to put an inflatable sock monkey - new to his collection this year - in a seated position on the front porch, and that just wasn't going to happen, his wife said.

"I tell him, the front is classy, the back is tacky," she said.

And the family won't run the display if they aren't available to closely monitor it.

The reason is simple, Deb Bowers said. Each breaker in the home's breaker box - the entire electrical service, for that matter - is absolutely maxed out by all of the cords, pumps and spotlights, she said. So the family likes to keep an eye on things in case those breaker switches, as they often do, flip from on to off.

Setting up, which Deb said stretches out over two weeks, is a daunting if not overwhelming task. Sometimes you just don't want to get started on it, she said.

But what follows makes everything worth it, she said.

People love the display. Nursing homes bus senior citizens there to see it, Deb Bowers said. And she once even met a young couple who came there on there first date and got their picture taken among blown up bears.

Deb Bowers said as her daughters - Kairisa, 15; Emmah, 14; and Mikenna, 12 - have grown, it seems like none of their friends' parents ever need directions to their home. Once they know it's the house with the inflatable display, they know exactly how to get there, she said.

This marks the ninth year for the display at the Bowers home, which started out smallish but has grown into something you might need to see to believe.

It grew another time yet this season, when a 51st inflatable was placed for display. And it's almost a certainty the display will grow again next year.

Just this week, Deb Bowers found her husband scoping out some new inflatables he hopes to buy when they go on sale after Christmas.

And if he follows the rules, he'll need to find space for them in the backyard.

Christmas tradition returns to McSherrystown's Lynn Court

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The street corner glows warmly, brightly.

Like something from days gone by.

And as Jerry Ricucci talks about the collectible lighted plastics that cast his North Forney Avenue home in gentle hues of red, green and ivory, it's hard to imagine a display that's four times as big.

But that was the size of it in previous seasons, he said - before thieves in consecutive years made off with a pair of elves and other pieces of his displays.

Somewhat soured by those incidents, he scaled back. He didn't put out as many decorations.

After all, some of the light-up figures - like the glowing carolers outside the front door - are heirlooms. Ricucci got them from his granparents who, as a matter of fact, used to sell the decorations at the hardware store they ran in Bethesda, Md.

"You don't want them stealing something that's been in the family for a long time," he said.

Along those lines, Ricucci chose to place close to the house any decorations he displays this year.

Anybody brazen enough to come that close would have within their sight the foyer-door decal that warns them they're under video surveillance.

Next year will be different, he said. He's planning to install some sort of fence to better protect his displays, and he said he intends to go "all out" once again.

But the passerby who's never seen any of Ricucci's previous displays might guess he's there already.

The cumulative effect of those plastics - the gingerbread village, the nativity scene, the snowmen; not to mention the giant lanterns and lighted ornaments - result in quite a glow.

The lanterns and ornaments - once part of municipal Christmas displays - came from a warehouse in northern Michigan that no longer had room to store them. Ricucci was able to arrange for delivery, and they now hang from a tree at his home, and line the roof overhang.

They're kept company by the figures on the ground.

Ricucci realizes there aren't many displays like his. Few people have the type of storage space it takes to maintain such a collection, and he said there's a lot of maintenance involved, with changing out lightbulbs and such.

But he said it's neat, too, to think the old decorations all were made by U.S. plastic companies, and there aren't any left anymore.

And he said that while he's always enjoyed holiday decorating, "now that I have kids, it makes it even more fun to do."

Daughter Genevieve, 3, and 17-month-old son, Alexander, are part of the reason the display continued in 2012, despite the problems with thieves.

"I guess we can't really let them dampen the spirit of things," he said. "It's just one of those things. You've got to take the bad with the good sometimes."

Boucher family display

A popular controlled-light display that's attracted thousands onlookers since 2008 is taking a year off this year.

The Boucher Family Lights, at 35 Dakota Drive, just west of McSherrystown, in previous years contained about 30,000 lights set to music that could be heard over vehicles' radios.

This year, the sign instructing spectators to tune their radios to 101.7 FM remains alight at the corner of the front yard, but music does not always play. A few lights and decorations remain in the yard.

The Bouchers on their website, www.pachristmas.com, offer an explanation.

"Sorry, there will be no show in 2012, I need a break so I don't burn out before my kids get too old to remember."

They don't appear to have ruled out bringing back the display next year.

Over the years, the Bouchers have used their light display to raise more than $7,000 for charity.