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Residential light extravaganzas

Kevin's Panorama
(Courtesy Kevin Fleming)

There are chasing lights and candy canes, nativity scenes and Santas. Edward and Marilyn Fleming's house -- and yard -- in Seminole, Florida are covered with nearly 20,000 lights.

And it's all done by 17-year-old Kevin Fleming, a student at Osceola High School. What's more, Kevin started decorating for the holidays about eight years ago.

"My family helps me out," Kevin says, "but I do most of the design work myself."

And it gets bigger every year -- Kevin adds about 3,000 lights to his extravaganza each time he puts it up.

Andy's Cane
(Courtesy Andy Jezioro)

Further north, in Manassas, Virginia, Andy Jezioro and family were bitten by the decorating bug about seven years ago.

Their display, which had 8,000 lights in 1994, now has around 25,000 -- including a "virtual tree" (900k GIF89 animation) that changes from green to red to white and back again. The tree, Jezioro says, has 4,800 lights and is controlled by a small computer running a bank of dimmer switches.

Jezioro took a week and a half to get this year's display up and glowing.

(Courtesy Tom and Linda Chilcote)

Tom and Linda Chilcote's display is younger -- the family home has been lighting up San Jose, California, only since 1991. The display changes from year to year, and is run from a special panel in the family garage.

There is one guiding principle: "We try and increase the intensity," says Tom. "Each year we add more lights, and each year we have more and more people come to look at them."

With the help of a local radio and television station, the Chilcotes put their visitors to good use, asking for donations of food for the Second Harvest Food Bank. It's working -- at this year's kick-off party earlier in December, the Chilcotes collected about 1,000 pounds of food.

(Courtesy The Clot Family)

About 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of the Miami airport, the Clot family takes up donations for charity as well -- for the Woman's Cancer Association of the University of Miami. In ten years of collecting, the Clots have given the association about a quarter of a million dollars -- all from the thousands of holiday light gawkers who come to see their elaborate displays.

There are half a million bulbs, including 70,000 big 70-watt bulbs, gracing the family's acre-and-a-half property.

"It literally looks like daylight," says Josh Clot, son of William Clot, who began the display nearly four decades ago. "We decorate every tree that can be seen."

Those lights illuminate 100 custom-made animated displays, from reindeer stalls and Santa's workshop to ice-skating couples and a winter sleigh ride. The Clots have been collecting the animations for 30 years, says Josh.

Josh estimates that hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive to see the lights every year.




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