I did not fully appreciate how much time, energy and money goes into the Christmas displays around our community until Scott Ballard invited me to take the cook's tour of his spectacular exhibit at 214 Poplar Street.
What drives Scott and his wife MaryAnn to undertake the herculean effort is a desire to share the message of faith and also to help people in the community connect with their memories of Christmas.
Ballard, who owns and operates Ballard Ambulance with his brother Shawn, started building his display in the early 1990s and hasn't stopped. This year, he took virtually the entire month of November off from work to build the annual display.
The display is impressive. There's a grinch swooping down from the roof of the house and a sleigh dancing across the shingles. There are thousands of lights adorning the house, trees and shrubs. A tiny train with a host of figurines circles a small Christmas tree on the front porch. The Ballards have a wood fire burning in a kettle in the driveway and on occasion, they serve hot chocolate and hand out candy canes.
The whole display is stunning, but it's also a lot of work. When lights go out, the replacements have to match, which requires some creative shopping and a lot of time.
Ballard is dreading the big snowfall that's predicted this week because of the amount of work it takes to clear off the display. Bad weather also creates hazards for visitors, which is a constant worry.
The work doesn't stop when the lights go out. He has a security system which allows him to monitor the displays throughout the night and when he hears noises, he's off to investigate to make sure that his displays stay intact.
Despite the enormous amount of time and financial commitment, it's all worth it when the youngsters and adults show up to admire the work and catch the spirit of Christmas.
Ballard says this may be the last hurrah for the display. He's in need of some shoulder surgery this winter and that may make it difficult to continue. Also, he admits it's physically challenging to put up, maintain and take down the display each winter.
Our web site has a wonderful list of Christmas displays that can be found at http://contests.wenatcheeworld.com/2012-christmas-lighting-guide/.
My hat is off to the Ballards and all of the other families that put so much into this effort for the simple joy of helping people catch the spirit of Christmas.