12/17/2013 2:20:00 PM Friends help with large Christmas display
CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) — The elaborate lighting display at Aaron Black’s home has a soundtrack of vocal Christmas music this year, but the classic rock song “With a Little Help from My Friends” sums up the work that makes this display possible.
Black said approximately a dozen of his friends and his step-father, Mike Dulton, pitch in at various points during the holiday season to help set up the Christmas lights and other exterior decoration at his home, 620 10th St., at the intersection with Van Buren Avenue. He estimated that 7,000 to 10,000 lights are arrayed all over the house and yard.
“My buddies are awesome,” Black said. “We would not be able to get it done by ourselves. It’s a lot of work.”
Black said his step-father got him started decorating for Christmas while he was growing up at his family’s home in Georgetown. Black said he carried on this holiday tradition after purchasing a home of his own in 2006 in Charleston.
The display started out fairly simple with icicle lights on the house and ground lighting, Black said. This display later grew to include roof lighting, inflatable decorations, silhouettes of a cross and star, and instrumental Christmas music. Black said one of the newest additions is window lighting that forms the initials of his alma mater, Eastern Illinois University.
Black noted that his friends helped him man a live Nativity scene a few years ago, despite nasty weather, and that he plans to dress up as Santa and give out candy canes at some point this year.
“Each year, I try to do something different. I try to do a little bit more each year,” Black said. He added that the addition of energy efficient LED decorations to his display a few years ago has reduced his electric bill considerably.
Work on Black’s display starts before Thanksgiving each year with him and his helpers hauling the lights out of the attic. Black said, working part time on the project, they usually need five to six days to set up all of the lights. Black said he likes to complete the project before Thanksgiving every year while the weather is still relatively nice and then turn on the lights afterwards.
Black said testing each string of lights and planning for the arrangement of nearly two dozen drop cords can be challenging. Black said he used to write out a design for the display, but he has done the work enough now that he can do all the planning in his head.
On on occasion, Black said he was getting frustrated while working on top of his roof when a local woman approached him to say that seeing the lighting display each year means a lot to her.
“That gave me the motivation to finish it,” Black said.
Black said he enjoys setting up the display for the community to see, particularly for those who can no longer decorate and for children. Black said he also has been glad to see students stop by from his current work as a physical education teacher at Carl Sandburg Elementary School and his past service as a student teacher at Jefferson Elementary School.
“It’s really awesome seeing people drive by,” Black said. “I love Christmas. I love the joy it brings. I am like a big kid myself.”
There is also a lot of joy to be found in setting up his lighting display. Black said he and his friends have made this project a holiday tradition, noting that he and his wife, Jenna, smoked pork this year to share during a meal with their helpers.
“We get to hang out and have a good time,” Black said.
Source: Mattoon Journal-Gazette and (Charleston) Times-Courier, http://bit.ly/1e1kh25
Information from: Mattoon Journal-Gazette, http://www.jg-tc.com