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Willmar, Minn., area light displays spread holiday cheer

This Christmas light display is on the corner of Willmar Avenue and 15th Street Southwest at the home of Nat and Tisha Ellinger. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

Sparkling icicle lights. Candy cane walkways. Multicolored lights strung on trees. Twinkling snowflakes in windows. If you're driving around the area this weekend to admire the holiday lights, these are just a few of the sights you'll see.

With no snow on the ground yet this year, it was easier for people to climb their ladders and transform their front yards into spectacular holiday displays that would make Clark Griswold proud. In year's past, the snow and ice have made hanging holiday decorations outside difficult, said Lori Morton, whose husband Steve Kotzenmacher has decorated the outside of their Willmar home for the nine years they've lived there.

"A lot of snow on the ground just makes it harder to put up lights," she said. "This year it was fairly easy to get everything up. It was pretty unusual, actually."

Morton and Kotzenmacher first started decorating their house when their daughter, now a junior in college, was born.

"It was fun to put up lights and see the look on her face," Morton said. "Then when she grew up, we didn't want to stop. We enjoyed doing it so much. It just adds to the excitement of Christmas."

Bob and Lyla Saloner also enjoy decorating their house for their children and grandchildren. Some of their family live in Florida and arrived earlier this week to celebrate the holidays in Willmar.

"It is just so much fun to decorate," Lyla Saloner said. "We have five grandchildren, and they really love the decorations. We also like to drive around and look at other people's holiday lights. We sometimes find inspiration from what other people have done."

While they love to decorate their home, Lyla said it does take time and effort. This year, she said her husband spent about three days hanging the lights outside and connecting them so they could plug in easily.

"It does take quite a while, but it's worth it," Lyla Saloner said. "We used to not do as much, but we just really enjoy it."

Rolf and Joyce Standfuss of Willmar also put a lot of work into decorating the outside of their home. They've been decorating their house for the past 21 years. This year, Rolf estimates they have between 6,000 and 7,000 holiday lights on display. He works hard to create an impressive display every year because Joyce's father, who died 13 years ago, loved to decorate for the holidays.

"I like to do it for her, because her dad always did it," Rolf Standfuss said. "The little ones in our family enjoy them a lot, too. We always try to decorate for all of the holidays, but especially at Christmas."

This year, the Standfusses had some trouble with rabbits chewing on the light strands.

"They like to do it when the lights aren't lit, so when you turn them on, you realize a whole section is burnt out," Rolf Standfuss said. "I just try to rewire them, and next year we'll probably just buy some new ones."

This year, Tisha Ellinger switched out her old lights for energy-saving LED bulbs. She's hoping this will help her save on her electric bill.

"Hopefully it will be lower this year," she said. "It got pretty high last year."

Still, the cost of an electric bill doesn't outweigh the fact that her beautiful purple and blue lights bring joy to her neighborhood.

"It's so dark at this time of year," said Ellinger, who lives in Willmar. "I think putting up lights brings a lot of cheer to my neighbors and the people who drive by. It makes everything look a little more joyful."

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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