For local seniors who participate in the annual Christmas lights tour put on by the Elmira Lions Club, John Ziegler’s Conestogo home is the highlight.
The house decked out from top to bottom, you can see the flashing lights and hear the Christmas music from down the street.
“Every year he adds something. You think ‘OK, he’s done the best he could last year’ and you go this year and you go ‘oh my God it’s even more.’ He always adds new things every year. He lives on a corner, so I told him he’s going to have to buy the house that’s for sale next door, so he can expand his lights because there’s no more room,” Lions Club member John Jongerius says with a laugh.
Jongerius estimates last week’s was the 28th year for the seniors’ Christmas outing. There were 67 people who participated this year, starting at Chartwell Chateau Gardens for dinner, and largely organized by Vicky Rau, he notes.
“Originally we’d take seniors to the Stone Crock from the retirement homes in town and then we have a sing-along, and then we’d go out on a tour for the lights. That, of course, was the highlight for most of the people. The whole thing’s fun,” Jongerius said.
He says the club first started taking seniors out for dinner and a sing-along. He’s not sure when they incorporated the Christmas lights tour, which has become an integral part of the outing.
“It’s been something we’ve been doing for many years and it’s nice for the seniors. We get Kiwanis Transit to help. … It’s just a fun thing to do. We all have a good time. It’s a good tradition,” Jongerius said.
They drive around Elmira looking at Christmas lights and then they go to Conestogo, making sure to take a trip down Golf Course Road. And while there are a lot of nice houses on that road, nothing compares to Ziegler’s on Weberlyn Crescent, says Jongerius.
Ziegler thinks it’s been about 10 years his house has been featured in the tour.
“They phone in November already wondering when they’re going to be up,” Ziegler says.
That might sound early, but not compared to when he starts preparing the decorations.
“This year I started right after Labour Day to put some of it up,” he says.
Every year it grows. The yard is filled with lit up trees, snowmen, and reindeer. He says every night there are cars stopped outside with people taking a look, even some walking around the yard to see the full effect.
It takes him weeks to assemble and when you take a look it’s easy to see why, with moving decorations and synchronized lights.
“A lot of the stuff I’ve made myself. I’ve had stuff get damaged with the weather and I’ve had to rebuild. Usually every year I have to do something. There’s maintenance with it too,” Ziegler says.
Since we’ve had a mild winter, he didn’t mind setting everything up. He didn’t even have to wear gloves.
Although, on Tuesday night he was heading home from work to fix some icicle lights that blew up onto the roof after the wind and rain we saw on Monday.
For many of us, just putting a couple strands of lights on the roof seems like a big chore. So what’s the appeal for Ziegler?
“That’s a good question,” he says with a laugh. “Everybody that comes they enjoy it. I’ve had people from Georgetown and all over. They’ll actually come up to the house and rap on the door and thank you and they’re back the next year and telling somebody else. It’s just funny that way.”
He expects to see lots of people taking a drive round the block to check out the lights over the next week because he’ll be taking it all down between Christmas and the new year, and enjoying a well deserved week off in January.
“I’ve got ideas for next year already,” he says.