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Crazy about Christmas

Locals decorate their homes to the hilt for holidays

STERLING – Forty-seven weeks out of the year, it’s a modest, single-family home.

But for the 5 weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, it’s a magical Christmas wonderland.

There are Santa Claus figures with curly white beards and flowing robes standing at attention on every step of the staircase.

Pixie elves in shiny gold hats and festive red- and green-striped garb dangle from the curtain rods and teeter on a decorative picket fence in the big picture window in the kitchen.

And there are several trees, each with a different theme, that display beloved ornaments.

Brenda Shore, 64, decorates for every holiday and special occasion, but “blows it up” for Christmas. Her home on West 13th Street near Kilgour Park is bursting with holiday cheer.

There are stockings, snowglobes and wreaths. There are ornaments, candles and music boxes. And there are lights that twinkle in the night.

“It makes me feel so good and happy and loved and warm,” Shore said. “My house even feels warm when I have all that stuff up.”

Even the everyday items are Christmas-fied: the curtains, toilet seat cover and tissue box cover in the bathroom; the clock, coffee mugs, cookie jar, table runner and apron in the kitchen; and the accent rugs, throw pillows and candle holders in the living room. 

“Everything is Christmasy,” Shore said. “If there’s a spot on a shelf, a hook or a nail, I have something for it. Wherever there’s a hidee-hole, I make sure to fill it.”

Shore digs out the decorations on Thanksgiving – it’s a “family event” to get all the boxes of decorations out of the attic – and works “day and night” for more than a week to put everything up around the house.

“It’s a joyous thing to put them up,” she said. “I don’t feel right if I don’t do it. It kicks off the holiday season for me. It puts me in the Christmas spirit.”

Shore leaves the decorations up until after New Year’s Day and takes a couple of weeks to savor the mementos, care for any ornaments that have broken or ribbons that have come untied, and get everything packed back into their boxes.

“It’s so depressing to take it all down,” she said. “It’s not like it’s gifts or anything; it’s just the spirit of Christmas.”

Shore has been collecting decorations and outfitting her home since the mid-1960s. She bought some things herself. She collected some things from her travels. And she received many things – including several handmade ornaments and other items – as gifts.

“At first, I bought things here and there … and it felt so good to me,” she said. “And over the years, I just accumulated more and more and more.

“It just makes me happy. They all bring back memories. … I know exactly where everything came from or who gave it to me and when. They all have a story behind them.”

Couple have ‘Christmas museum’ in Morrison

Outside, icicles twinkle from the roof line, a sleigh full of packages glides into the yard, and a 16-foot tall Santa Claus bids glad tidings at the front walkway.

Inside, the North Pole bustles.

There are five tiny villages alight with warmth and merriment.

Hundreds of mischievous elves hide among the needles of a 10-foot evergreen tree.

And a tree is decked out in honor of Santa Claus – complete with a black, leather belt around the middle and a red-and-white hat on top.

Larry, 62, and Jan Roggy, 60, ooze holiday joy. And their 1865 Italianate home at Morris and Base streets, south of downtown Morrison, is “a Christmas museum”; the couple even open their home for families to walk through around the holidays.

“It’s fun to see,” Jan said. “There’s a special, magical feeling when you walk around.”

There are almost 20 Christmas trees – at least one in each room of the two-story house – each decorated in a different theme. There are snowmen everywhere in one room and Santa Clauses all over the place in another. And there are stockings, wreaths and other trimmings in every nook, cranny and bare spot on the shelf or wall.

“It makes me feel good, just to sit back and watch the glitter of the lights, …” Jan said.

Roggy starts decorating the weekend after Halloween; she spends her nights and weekends until Thanksgiving putting everything in place inside.

“I basically pack away everything in the house and bring out new things,” she said.

Framed pictures are replaced or wrapped in Christmas paper and tied with ribbon. Rugs, throw pillows and blankets are replaced with their holiday-themed counterparts. Even the tables in the kitchen and dining room and the small cafe table in the den are set with holiday dishes.

Roggy illuminates the trees, villages and other decorations Thanksgiving night – “after the turkey is cold” – and leaves the decorations up until her birthday on Jan. 15. She takes a few weeks (sometimes into February) to take it all down and put it all away.

The Roggys have been trimming their home for many years: It’s a tradition and a way for them to honor their family. The house is overflowing with love and memories, perhaps nowhere more apparent than the tree in the master bedroom. The tall, thin tree bears dozens of special ornaments – one with bingo cards in honor of Jan’s mother, one with cardinals in honor of Larry’s mother, and several that mark special occasions.

“Christmas is a time to bring those loved ones close to you,” Jan said. “It’s hard at Christmastime, because so much of what we did together is not there anymore. But this keeps the memories there.”

Man lights up the street in Sterling

From more than half a mile away, a house glows in the night, a beacon of holiday joy.

Closer to the house, the scene comes into view: Colored lights wrap around the fence up the driveway and trim the roof line, windows and doors, and even the chimney. Snowflakes dance on a wire strung between two trees. A jolly Santa Claus greets passers-by, while the Holy Family waits under the cover of a modest stable.

Mike Schutt, 49, is known for his Christmas lights. His house at the end of Fisher Street on the far west side of Sterling is a destination for many at this time of year.

“We get a lot of lookers because you can see it from so far away,” he said. “They drive past because they saw it from far away, and they have to come and see it up close.”

Schutt has been decorating his house for more than 25 years, and he puts up the same display every year. How many lights?

“I don’t really want to count,” he said with a chuckle.

Schutt, a self-employed contractor, spends nights and weekends over a few weeks to put up the lights. He covers a big maple tree in lights, from the trunk into the branches four stories up. He makes trees out of flagpoles and other tree trunks and tops them with homemade, lighted stars. And he hangs a wreath at the peak of the roof.

Schutt flips the switch at 5 o’clock every night and, as the holiday near, waits for visitors to pull into the driveway on the dead-end street and take pictures of the display.

“It just feels good to look out and see my yard all lit up,” he said. “I wouldn’t care if no one else ever saw it; I just love it. But it makes me feel pretty good [that other people want to see the lights]. That’s why I do it.

“It’s not just for me. It’s for other people to enjoy, too.”

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