Winter wonderlands in Tonganoxie
When Tim and Teresa Burge lived in Tennessee, Tim was putting up decorations for his extravagant Christmas light show display. one of the children in the neighborhood exclaimed “That’s so cool!”
“That just sold me right there,” Burge said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”
He set up the display for a couple years before moving to Tonganoxie to be closer to Teresa’s family.
Now local residents can enjoy the display set to music at 121 Rawlings Drive.
Some 3,000 lights complement decorations throughout the yard.
This is now the third year the family has put up the lights in Tonganoxie. And, now that their children are older — Betsey is 7, Jakob 8, Trent 9 and Lilly 10 — Tim has some additional help.
It’s normally a weeklong process setting up the lights — including pixel lights — and getting them programmed to six controllers. Tim will take the week before Thanksgiving off from work to get the masterpiece ready. It’s a light show that changes each year.
When vehicles stop, they can tune their vehicle radios to 89.9 FM. The display plays from 5:30-10 p.m. each night. His playlist includes a techno version of “Amazing Grace,” Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and some Trans-Siberian Orchestra, to name a few.
Tim said there’s a lot of research online for various ways to situate the lights that it’s almost a community of Christmas-light enthusiasts.
Their home is in the South Park subdivision. The residence is at the corner of Rawlings and Joles drives. As with any residential neighborhood, visitors should be cautious and respectful when driving through to view. Turning off headlights when stopping to view, for instance, is something to keep in mind.
Trolls, the Grinch and Sia
Derek Sparks grew up in a festive home during the holidays. He got his enthusiasm for continuing to decorate himself from his mother.
“She always decorated our house growing up and drove us around each year to see the different displays in the area,” he said.
Sparks currently has 7,500 lights in his display at 109 S. Village St. That includes a mega tree set to music, which is the focal point of the light show.
The display has several songs in its loop. Visitors can pull up and tune their radios to 95.3 FM and start watching the light show as characters in the lights come to life.
Trolls (Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick) can be seen in the light show signing “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” while Alvin and the Chipmunks have a couple numbers in the show.
There’s also a disco version of “Star Wars” and a mashup of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and the Cantina song from “Star Wars.”
Sia’s “Santa’s Coming for Us” and the Straight No Chaser version of “Twelve Days of Christmas also are in the playlist, along with others, including Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” and Vocal Majority Chorus’ version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
The light show is a treat for Derek and wife, Sondra, and their children: Mason, 6; Logan, 5; and Ava, who soon will turn 2.
Sparks said it took him two days to put up lights this year, but “hopefully only one in the future,” he said.
“I have plans and ideas in my head to expand more. But we will see whether I continue to build on what I already have or leave it as is,” Sparks said.
Lighting the way
Gene and Debbie Becker’s house is hard to miss during the holiday season.
Gene outlines the many lines and windows of their home with white lights. He also uses posts to string lights along the winding driveway and down the property, this year around the family’s nearby pond.
In total, there are about 25,000 white lights that illuminate the property during the holidays.
The family walks up the street from the rows of lights to Sacred Heart Catholic Church for Christmas Eve Mass, a tradition Debbie said she loves most.
Gene’s father didn’t do much in the way of decorating when he was growing up, so he started his own tradition. The family did similar decorations at the previous residence in town at 906 Church St. and has now done the same at their current house the past 26 years.
Asked whether his engineering background played a role in his designs, Gene chuckled and said “no.”
“It’s not rocket science,” he said with a laugh.
It also isn’t a quick undertaking.
Gene starts about a month before Thanksgiving a few hours a day setting up the display so it’s ready in time for Thanksgiving.
“It’s not a one-day thing,” Debbie said.
Gene said that to get the full effect of the lights, one should get an up-close view of the house and outline of the drive.
He also said Dec. 26 is an important day — he always stocks up on lights for the next year.
• Kansas City has its share of attractions if you’re out and about, including the light display from Vince and Associates that contains 200,000 LED lights at 103rd and Metcalf in Overland Park. Emmanuel Baptist Church across the street gives the best view. Be sure to tune your car radio to 95.5 FM when there.
• Blogs will give you a ideas for a slew of viewing opportunities in Kansas City, but another to consider is the Deanna Rose Ultimate Holiday Tree Lights at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park. There is a 30-minute light display. The frequency there is 90.5 FM.
• If you want to head west, another option is the Winter Wonderland at Lake Shawnee near Topeka. The show benefits a not-for-profit service organization supporting people with intellectual, developmental and related disabilities and delays in Topeka and Shawnee County. Suggested donations per vehicle is $10-$20.
• If your holiday takes you farther west — or you want to go on a little adventure — head to Manhattan and visit courtyard of decorations just south of the Flint Hills Discovery Center. The lawn is a poplar place for holiday photos.
• If you’re really into a road trip, keep heading north from Manhattan for another 60 miles to the small community of Hanover. The Bruna family has an extravagant display that has been a family tradition for decades. Once you drive into town, the residence will be easy to spot on your left.
If you see the large Catholic church and then the high school, you’ve gone too far. The family welcomes visitors to make the circle drive and take in the Christmas sights free of charge.