Weather, whims, wives dictate when lights come down

Many take holiday decorations down shortly after New Year's Day

Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2000

Miss Manners has yet to issue an edict about when to take down outdoor Christmas lights. But some local homeowners have plenty to contribute about proper light etiquette.

"We usually turn them off right after New Year's," said Caroline Shivers, owner of Arctic Carpet on Old Dairy Road. Shivers has had her tall, blue angel permanently installed for three years, so it's just a matter of pulling the plug.

The Governor's Mansion sports one of Juneau's most popular displays with its blue shooting star on the chimney, red fireworks-like bursts in the trees, and lighted swags on fence and street railings. There the decorations come down a little bit later.

"The lights usually come through the Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 6)," said Gov. Tony Knowles' press secretary Bob King, "but we're not sure when people are available to take the lights down. So it might be the week after that."

Mint Way is one street where residents delight in holiday wattage. For example, Dave Blumenshine creates homemade plywood cutouts. The display this year, said his daughter Nikki, 15, includes two polar bears playing with boxes, two igloos and a gingerbread house with candy canes. These are backed up by lighted wire trees.

"They usually come down in the two weeks after New Year's," Nikki Blumenshine said.

Mountainside Estates is another glittering area of town. Bryce Patsy said he takes down his lights "when my wife tells me to."

His neighbor, Kirby Day, tries to outwit the weather with his 500 bulbs. "I got them up early in December, trying to beat the snow. I took them down Friday, trying to get them down before it was snowy and icy and difficult to get up on the roof," Day said.

Another Mountainside resident, Steve Iha, started dismantling his tree Saturday, but the outdoor display, featuring Santa and a sleigh, has to wait. "We have a big New Year's get-together and then we start taking down the outside lights," Iha said.

Some yards attempt abbreviated histories of Western Civilization. Take, for instance, the yard of Kim and Patrick Shea on Riverside Drive. The Sheas' display includes Santa and two reindeer on the roof, plus Walt Disney's Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Snoopy dressed as Santa, two snowmen, a nativity scene, carolers, little drummer boys, a star, an angel and a fence hung with candy canes. Most of these items are illuminated plastic figurines.

It takes eight to 12 hours to set everything up, even with daughter Teresa lending a hand.

"We enjoy putting them up and everyone driving by 'oohing,' and 'aahing,' but we did it originally for the three kids when they were smaller," Kim Shea said. "We just keep doing it even though the kids are now grown and gone."

The Sheas follow their own hard and fast rules about up and down. It doesn't go up until after Thanksgiving. It comes down the first week after Christmas, she said, so disassembly began Saturday.

Nichol Lindsey and Liz Balstad were in charge of the decorating at the Seward Street location of Shattuck & Grummett Insurance. Their decorations includes window displays of Santa, wrapped gifts and cutouts of downtown facades. "We take them down right after New Year's, so on Tuesday this year," Lindsey said.

Rich Poor installed what he calls "an exuberant" display of 10 to 20 strings, inside and out, at Third and G.

Poor says the wind sometimes beats him to taking the lights down, but fortunately this December's weather has been relatively calm.

"After the 28th, I start, but I do it slowly. I start by taking down the lights in the back yard. After New Year's the lights are no longer turned on, even if some of them are still up," Poor said.

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