December 12 – The Wyoming Tribune Eagle asked readers in the Cheyenne area to name their favorite holiday lights in town, and you certainly did so.
The holiday lights are synonymous with the Christmas spirit, but beneath the flash there is a deep emotional drive to attract the attention of a passing car. Residents hang lights for their community, for their families, past and present, and to keep the spirit of their childhood alive.
The Eagle Tribune has called for nominations not only to celebrate residents’ efforts, but also to show why they are making their efforts in the first place.
But in order to do that, the nominees had to grab everyone’s attention.
Josh Pennock at 2705 E. 11th St. knows how to do just that. He’s been doing it since he was a kid.
Since then, the extravagance of the home of him and his girlfriend Meghan Deisch has only grown to the point that they simply no longer have room, inside and out. Even with the impressive display in their limited front yard, the main motivation for the two is to create Christmas keepsakes for the children and their families.
“It’s a childhood thing,” Pennock said. “You are driving with your parents and you see a house and the kid says, ‘Mum, dad! That sort of thing, so I guess I’m doing it for that. This memory is instilled in me. “
It all started when he was 10 years old. Pennock decorated his grandmother’s apartment, hung lights from the roof of his father’s house, once won a radio in a lighting contest at the age of 13.
It remains a childhood motivation for him and Deisch.
She gave birth to her fourth child just days ago, but that hasn’t slowed their preparation. After being berated by the doctor for exerting too much energy, Deisch just stepped back to play her organizing role while Pennock got to work.
“I’m 28 and my parents and I always go out on Christmas Eve,” Deisch said. “It’s a tradition. I want this for other kids. Let them drive past my house and say, ‘Oh, I remember this house every year.'”
They start setting up the house the day after Halloween, unloading huge deposits of Christmas decorations from storage. The house, in the span of just a week, undergoes a transformation from a haunted display of Halloween decorations to a beacon of light on the east side of Cheyenne.
From fence to fence and yard to roof, multicolored lights, decorated Christmas trees and inflatable figures fill the yard, almost making the house a decoration in itself. The interior is similar, with homemade snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and a Christmas tree with a miniature train coiled near the top.
Pennock knows they’re on the verge of the possibility at the moment, but they plan to move to a bigger house in the near future. Once they do, he has a few tricks up his sleeve to take his already impressive display to the next level.
They have so many decorations that they started to help the neighbors celebrate the season, bringing some light to a darker side of the neighborhood.
A similar situation occurs on Essex Road, where two houses just a few hundred yards apart are doing what they can to light up part of the neighborhood.
Jesse Blunn at 3578 Essex Road decorates his home in an effort to honor his family and neighbors.
He continues to add lights every year, but this year he added an assortment of festive pigs, representing his childhood on a pig farm. A heart-shaped string of lights sat on the roof in tribute to him and his wife, Katie.
As a coach at Cheyenne East, he placed the high school logo in the center of his house and added his son’s football number to the top left of his garage. He is still waiting for decorations of purple shooting stars that will soar above the house when hung from the tree in the garden.
However, there is still something important that he seeks to add.
Her desire to hang lights began with her recently deceased father. This prompted Blunn to continue stepping up his light display, continuing to expand, even considering grabbing some of his father’s decorations to add to his own.
“When my dad died a friend said to me ‘Hey, here’s $ 50, go buy something that’ll help you remember him’ and I haven’t bought anything yet,” Blunn said. “I wanted to buy some Christmas lights, but I didn’t dedicate any to him. I’m kind of waiting until the end of the Christmas season to have a special one for him.”
In the future, he wants to take the alley to the right of his house and fill it with fairy lights and figures of Christmas figures. It’s possible that with enough decoration, it will end up creating a kind of tunnel of light that people can walk through.
Recently, the Cheyenne Holiday Lights Trolley passed through Essex Road, marking the celebration of Blunn, who has competed with himself to improve each year in his light display.
But really, it wouldn’t matter if the cart passed at all.
“I think it’s just joy,” Blunn said. “I like to turn on all the lights and people walking by and like, ‘Hey, I love your lights, they make me happy.'”
Down the street at 3550 Essex Road, Brian Bartow made a similar effort to expand his light display to the rest of the neighborhood, with a few new additions to him.
He lets his kids pick their favorite inflatable decorations and choose where to put them, but as Bartow works as a firefighter at FE Warren Air Force Base, sprawling across his neighbor’s yard, there is a collection of fire engine decorations. .
The brand new centerpiece of it all, however, is an original 1942 Army fire truck. Although he plans to completely restore the truck in the coming years, it is currently covered in Christmas lights. and a “Merry Christmas” sign for an eye-catching display.
“This is where the family has fun, seeing people stop and watch, and it’s kind of our little ‘How many people can we stop?’ Thing. Bartow said, “Ultimately it lifts their spirits.”
Although he has lived in the house for 12 years, he has only been decorating to this degree for about five years. When he started there were no other lights in the neighborhood, but now he and other residents are helping the surrounding elderly neighbors decorate the block.
It even spread to the “community park” which is in the middle of the street. In the center is a towering tree that one of the neighbors usually climbs and lights with lights for a community Christmas vibe.
This neighbor is now too old to decorate so boldly, so Bartow and others have rented an elevator to make the job a little easier. When you walk into Essex Road and see the tree, you know it’s a neighborhood with a sense of pride.
“It’s more about getting the community involved and getting more people involved in what we have,” Bartow said. “To be a little proud of what we have here. “
This pride has paid off, as Blunn and Bartow have noted on several occasions that they are now included on the Visit Cheyenne Holiday Trolley route, which due to higher demand has been downgraded from a three-way route. separate experiences.
This year, the Trolley Tour is pushing residents to “Light Up Cheyenne” for the holiday season.
“It seemed like for the past four years all we had done was see the same houses, we had been to the same places and blah, blah, blah,” said Sue James, Transportation Manager at Visit Cheyenne. “People are lighting up Cheyenne, and I want to show them that we appreciate them lighting up Cheyenne.”
All three routes feature the city’s greatest light shows, and unlike in previous years, the streetcar will venture into southern Cheyenne. If the tours were not divided into three separate routes, each visit would last more than three hours.
There will be a north, south and east tour route which will all run on a rotating schedule. James guarantees that each route will have one of Cheyenne’s top attractions.
To find out which route will be carried out in a given time, one can call and register with the holiday circuits.
One thing is certain, the streetcar will stop at 7614 Harvest Loop, where Jeff and Julie Grant are no strangers to Christmas advertising.
Jeff has long been nicknamed the “Cheyenne Christmas Guy,” and together they’ve always had one of the most decorated homes.
“Christmas has always been about family,” Grant said. “The magic of Christmas is seeing children’s faces light up when they see the lights.”
Grant makes all of his decorations by hand in his workshop, which he also built, behind his house. Her favorite creation is an assortment of Sesame Street characters in a large plywood display. Other recognizable faces are scattered throughout the yard, along with Christmas trees.
Some of these woodwork are designs that he sells. Throughout the year, he receives around 50 requests for homemade decorations, including a stack of penguins with different college logos on their respective scarves.
He sells them not for a profit, but for a price just high enough to maintain the service. He makes a lot of it for customers in the state, but ships it to Texas and New Hampshire.
Anyone who comes for a streetcar ride or follows one for the free ride can see the 50 hours of effort Grant and his family put into decorating their home.
But what many don’t see is the love for the season shining within their walls.
Although Grant said he favors outdoor decorations, his family has installed 21 trees throughout the house. Each tree represents something different, but just as important, in their life.
“To be honest, I’ve never had a single tree as far back as I can remember,” Grant said. “For me, it all started when I was a young boy and my parents were selling Christmas trees.”
Each year, the day after Thanksgiving, her family received a tractor-trailer containing up to 1,500 Christmas trees.
“We had the tallest and most beautiful trees in everyone in the valley because we had the top pick of everything,” Grant said. “We usually had one upstairs, one downstairs, one in the living room, and one in the family room.”
With extravagant decorations, the trees in the house symbolize the most important part of Christmas for Grant: the memories.
Some have themes, like the Disney tree, which reminds her of when her children were younger. There’s a Cheyenne Frontier Days tree, a silver, red, and blue military tree for her son, or two smaller trees that honor his parents.
It will be the Grants’ first Christmas alone, as their children are old enough to spend the holidays in different locations. But looking at the trees, everyone feels a little closer.
Will Carpenter is the reporter for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Arts and Entertainment / Features. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.