One of the merrier trips of the holidays is the one you can take through your own town after the sun has snuggled under the dark blanket of night and the distant stars welcome earthly competition.
‘Tis the season to marvel at houses transformed by Christmas lights, Nativity scenes, and air-filled snowmen. Even pink flamingos join the holiday revelry over on Lakeshore Drive
Luminaries line the streets throughout the grandly decorated Forest Park neighborhood.
"We've been doing this off and on for 12 years," said Jim Keller, vice president of the Forest Park homeowners association. "The biggest reason is to create holiday spirit in the neighborhood and to collect (money) for a very worthy cause."
In addition to collecting for St. Vincent de Paul, the association also collected food for the Payson Humane Society.
"It's always a lot of work to put it all together, but when you see what it does for a community and to take the food to the food bank, it's all worth it," he said.
Paul and Isobel Batty have been putting up Christmas lights every year of the 67 they have been married, adding new decorations each year. Two dozen Christmas balls make the house on the corner of McLane Road and Overland Street truly unique. Presently the electricity bill only goes up $20 or so a month, but back when Christmas bulbs were 25 watts a piece and flood lights lit up the holiday scenes, the bill could run as much as $30 more a week.
One year, the Battys opened their door quite late at night to a man and his kids. The dad had been working the swing shift, but he'd promised his children they could go and see Santa on his cycle. So the Battys turned the lights back on. Although their health is not good, Mrs. Batty hopes they will continue to be able to share the lights of Christmas, stating, "We do it because we love it!"
"It's fun!" said Dianne Mitchell who decorates Sunny Mountain Realty of Pine every year. She believes the whole community enjoys seeing the lights-- stopping by with their kids and grandchildren.
The short drive out to Christopher Creek to look at lights is well worth the time. Business owners and the homeowners association start planning early in order to create a Christmas wonderland to share with Rim county residents. In particular, the outrageously decorated house of Christopher Creek's own Fire Chief, Ray Larsen, on Columbine is a must see.
According to Payson resident, Ron Armstead, "It takes about three days, if everything goes right," to decorate their house on Saddle Lane. His wife, Dolly, who takes care of the Christmas tree indoors, said that they keep putting lights up in remembrance of her mother-in-law. "She'd come around the corner, see the tree and the lights and say, "It's Christmas!"
While you enjoy the bountiful lights of your neighbors, donations of food are still needed and being taken by local charities. Contact St. Vincent de Paul's Food Bank at (928) 474-9104 and the Humane Society at (928) 474-5590.