Upon meeting, they found they had a love of Christmas lights in common.
It is this same love that moves Eric Johnson and his wife Linda McIntosh to light up their yard for the holiday season each year.
“As far as how many lights are out there I really can’t tell you,” said Johnson. “There is probably 1,500 to 2,000. We might spend $30 to $40 per year on buying new ones as some of the old ones can no longer be repaired.”
In recent years, Johnson has added music to coincide with lights coming on and off at different times.
It takes him a total of 24 hours to put up the display. He works about three hours per day on it. After that it is just a matter of replacing missing lights and spending a couple of hours over the winter to straighten up after wind storms.
As a child, Johnson recalls enjoying putting the lights on the Christmas tree, although outside decorating was not something they did.
“I use to go downtown (Vancouver) and the Woodward’s store on Hasting Street had this animated display,” he said. “They were the best animated Christmas display windows you could ever see. I was fascinated with that.”
McIntosh grew up in Summerland and inherited her love of Christmas from her mother. Her dad would string up lights every year. Her parents won the best lit house on Julia Street in 1959.
Speaking about the decorations, her father Al said, “They were much more modest then, than they are now. Everything was homemade and we had the phonograph out there.”
“One of the highlights of Christmas for me was seeing the manger scene at the end of Main Street,” said McIntosh. “I think all people like lights in winter…how can you not? It is such a dull dreary time of year.”
When Johnson and McIntosh built their retirement home, they made sure they installed extra power and extra outside circuits in preparation for their light display.
“We haven’t got to the stage where we have a separate generator for our Christmas lights,” McIntosh jokingly said.
She estimates it costs $100 per month to run the lights, even though the majority of their lights are energy efficient LEDs.
There is something this couple feels is lacking when it comes to the light displays in Summerland.
“One of the nicest things we liked about the coast, that we miss here, is that they would publish lists of lights to see.” said McIntosh.
She explained that people who wanted to share the joy of their lights with others, would submit their addresses to the local papers, who in turn would publish these addresses during the month of December. This enabled the public to plan a driving route, in order to view the lighted yards.
“It was really nice,” said McIntosh. “We use to take Eric’s mom on these drives. I know here, there are buses of seniors that go out to see lights, but they don’t always know where to go.”
In 2009 Johnson and McIntosh won the best light display contest in Summerland.
“We wouldn’t enter the contest again because we won it once,” explained McIntosh. “We still think our lights are worth seeing and we know other people like to see them, and we’d just like to let them know…yes, we are going to have lights again this year!”
The couple’s display can be viewed at 9717 Canyon View Rd.