Holiday decorators ask: ‘What would Clark Griswold do?’

Tim Skillern
The Lookout

Gone are the Christmases past when Dad strung a few measly yards of colored lights along the porch and, if he felt ambitious, staked a plastic Frosty the Snowman in the front yard.

A 21st-century Christmas, in contrast, boasts countless houses festooned with dancing reindeer, light-and-song synchronization and video-projection screens. Dazzling holiday decorations are surely nothing new, but the need to out-Christmas our neighbors is growing: According to the National Retail Federation, Americans last year were estimated to spend more than $6 billion on Christmas decorations. That projection was up 8 percent from 2010.

To capture a bit of that spirit, Yahoo News published profiles this week of superdecorators around the country.

• In Sharpsville, Ind., Michael and Janet Poulimas’ massive presentation includes 100,000 lights over two acres, peppered with color-changing pinwheels, snowflakes, teddy bears, penguins and a talking Santa.

• Joe Ricciardi's display in West Norriton, Pa., has ballooned from 200 lights in 2004 to 65,000 this year. Creating the spectacle takes 480 man hours. To light his 50-foot trees, Ricciardi rents a boom lift.

• A 9-x-15-foot high-definition video screen highlights the Stone family’s Christmas lights in Edmond, Okla., treating visitors to Christmas-themed text, shapes, colors and even a game of Tetris. And then there are the lasers. Real honest-to-Santa lasers!

These details—gathered and provided by freelance writers from Yahoo! Contributor Network—give a glimpse into the grandeur of three Christmas displays that some of our country’s more impassioned decorators trotted out this year. Here is more about theses displays.

Razzle-dazzle Christmas lights for a good cause in Oklahoma

By Lori Spencer

EDMOND, Okla.—The Stone Christmas Lights in this Oklahoma City suburb, about 15 miles north of the city, are well-known among the locals as a hi-tech holiday show that packs plenty of razzle-dazzle.

36-year-old Brad Stone is the creator of this residential light bonanza that has become a wildly popular attraction in recent years.

"[A] video screen allows us to do some unique things to get the family involved each year," he says. "The technology gets a little better each season, and this year we added a type of light that lets us make the display any color we choose. We have a 20-foot-tall Christmas tree that is one of the highlights of the show. It can display text, shapes, or play a game of Tetris. We also have a low-power laser that makes one of our trees look like hundreds of tiny lights are in it.

"The only thing missing is fire and smoke," he laughs.

There's synchronized music, too. Audio is broadcast via a transmitter on a radio frequency—100.9 FM—allowing visitors to hear songs while enjoying the show.

How much does all that eye-popping technology cost?

"It really depends on the elements we are designing and adding each year," Stone says. "It can vary from $2,000 to $8,000 each year. The display is 100 percent LED, meaning we don't really notice a difference in our December electric bill. Hard to believe, but it's true."

Stone says he doesn't really have a way to track how many visitors he gets annually, but "we know it is in the thousands based on the number of cars, limos, and buses that come through each week."

In 2011, the Stone Christmas Lights began partnering with OK Foster Wishes to help fulfill the Christmas wish lists of more than 9,000 children in the Oklahoma Foster Program. Stone says his goal is to raise $5,000 for OK Foster Wishes this Christmas season.

Read more about the Stone’s decorations.

Philly holiday decorator asks: 'What would Clark Griswold do?'

By Alyce Wilson

WEST NORRITON, Pa.—When all the Christmas lights ignite at Joe Ricciardi's residence on his street in this northwest Philadelphia suburb, the streetlight shuts off.

Ricciardi, dressed in Santa Claus garb, explains that his display is so bright, the streetlight's sensors are tricked into thinking its daytime.

Since 2007, the first year Ricciardi began syncing his lights with music, he's won the annual Best of Norriton award. This year's show features several songs, including the holiday classic "Linus & Lucy," which play while lights dance across the lawn and roof displays, including an LED-light red Christmas tree and arcs evoking playful light fountains.

[Video: Watch a video of Ricciardi’s Christmas display]

Ricciardi, 33, draws inspiration from a Christmas classic: "My favorite movie is 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, so every year I ask myself what would [Clark] Griswold do."

For more than two decades, Ricciardi has perfected his craft. His decorating began at age 7, when his family moved from South Philly to Horsham. Excited about living on a cul-de-sac where everyone decorated their homes, Ricciardi's family began lighting two evergreen trees. The next year, Ricciardi took over, adding first a window, then another tree, each year adding more.

"When I moved to West Norriton Township in 2004, it was like I was a kid again," he said.

Read more about Ricciardi’s decorations.

Poulimas family brightens holidays, honors veterans

By Lana Bandoim

SHARPSVILLE, Ind.—Michael and Janet Poulimas' holiday display attracts an average of 8,000 visitors every year to their home 30 miles north of Indianapolis.

A 14-foot tree has been decorated with lights that rotate and spin. The holiday display also includes deer, snowmen, teddy bears, penguins, candy canes, arches and wreaths.

But Michael says the tribute to veterans is his favorite part of the holiday display and one of the most popular features among visitors. He combines more than 50 U.S. flags with silhouettes of soldiers and more than 70 white crosses.

"Each cross bears the name of a veteran from north-central Indiana who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The reason we have the memorial is to remind visitors that there are veterans currently serving who will not be home for Christmas, and veterans who will never be home," he says.

The Poulimas family encourages donations to two charities: We Care of Howard county and Jubilee Christmas of Tipton County. They raise an average of $5,000 for the charities every year.

Read more about the Poulimas’ decorations.

More than 500 lawn ornaments dot this New York Christmas wonderland

By Eric Holden

GLEN COVE, N.Y.—When it comes to the New York metro area, the undisputed champ of the winter super decorators is Michael Liquori, as his Nassau County home, located on Francis Terrace in Glen Cove, features over 40 inflatable Christmas decorations, including several larger-than-life Santa Claus figures, a massive Frosty the Snowman blowup and a 10-foot toy soldier.

Liquori Lights, as the house has come to be known by locals during the holiday season, also showcases over 500 Christmas-themed lawn ornaments and approximately 20,000 lights.

Liquori has received overwhelming support from the Glen Cove community, though, especially the young students and their parents who make it a point to visit his home each holiday season. He says the smiling faces of the young onlookers who stop by the house are what make it all worthwhile.

"It's unbelievable," Glen Cove resident David Arslanian said. "It's probably the most well-decorated house in Nassau County, if not the entire state. My family has been going there each Christmas since I was just a small child."

The Liquori holiday display was a well-kept secret until the house was featured on CNN one Christmas. Since then, the home has been featured on CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, News 12 Long Island, and several international stations.

Read more about Liquori’s decorations.

Eye-popping lights in Southern California a family effort

By Melissa Matters

SANTA CLARITA, Calif.—While driving down Copper Hill in Valencia, a planned community north of Los Angeles, you can't help but notice Christmas lights peeking through the trees in a nearby neighborhood.

A bright holiday display beckons onlookers to turn off the main road for a closer look, and when they do make it to the Kleszcz residence at 23258 Chervil Ct., they are never disappointed.

Along with lights covering the trees and bushes, there are blinking lights on the rooftop. An array of lights frames the windows and garage. A wreath adorns the doorway, "snow" blankets the ground and holiday tunes fill the air. On the lawn, wooden reindeer are frolicking between some evergreen trees. Presents on a conveyor belt, a blinking Christmas tree and a large red "Merry Christmas" sign are other notable decorations. The house itself is bordered by wooden candy canes, along with red and white lights. Of course, the animatronic Santa Claus in the driveway is one of the most memorable sights.

Thad and Karen Kleszcz married in 1995. Two years later, they moved into their home on Chervil Court. Both love Christmas, and their amazing holiday display started taking shape the first year they moved in. In fact, they put up Christmas decorations before they unpacked their furniture. A neighbor vouches that although there was "nothing but dirt" in the yard, there were "great Christmas decorations." That was 15 years ago. Now, the Christmas spirit is as incredible as ever.

Read more about the Kleszcz’ decorations.