Honk if you like the lights!Karen Marsh’s dad, Roman Pechacek, won’t let her decorate his antique John Deere tractor, but she puts lights and ornaments on just about everything else.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Karen Marsh’s dad, Roman Pechacek, won’t let her decorate his antique John Deere tractor, but she puts lights and ornaments on just about everything else.
Her mother, Dolores, said she’s amazed at all Karen manages to do every year both at her own home and her parents’ farm.
“I think I have everything decorated,” said Marsh.
She and husband Toby Garey estimate that the total decorated area probably equals close to three acres. The couple says it would be impossible to count how many lights the displays contain.
Sightseers take in a winter wonderland that includes lights affixed to each house, the barn, the fences and most other stationary objects; blow-up figures including Packers, Snoopy, Looney Tunes, Disney characters, John Deere and others; a sledding hill; a tree lot; Santa Claus’ workshop, where the barn cats often appear in the window; a nativity scene at both locations; a group of Santas; snowmen; a big snow globe; reindeer on the roof; dozens of candy canes; penguins; Dr. Suess’ Grinch; and many, many others.
They keep all the decorations in the barn loft — the Pechaceks get one side and Marsh the other.
Marsh said she’s been doing the decorations for about 10 years. She says Dolores started it all by giving her two lighted Roman candle decorations one year — just on a whim.
“My mom thought it would be nice to get me that one year,” she said.
For a while, her family would decorate the windows of their homes and the barns.
Marsh also got inspiration from her neighbors — one had a display on his roof so bright that people could see the glow from afar. Another would put lighted holiday messages on his fence.
The tradition grows bigger each year. Marsh said new this year is a decorated (non-moving) carousel and a drive-through route so that cars can pull through and take in the details slowly.
A sign posted in the yard says, “Honk if you like the lights.”
Marsh said she does the decorations because it’s something free for other people to enjoy. She enjoys hearing the many honking horns that tell her people enjoy the lighted display.
She thinks people have come to expect it. Besides, says the woman with 20-plus tubs of indoor decorations, she just really loves Christmas.
Labor of love
Marsh and Garey say the Pechacek family tradition of holiday lights really goes all year round. Though Christmas is the biggest, brightest display, the family also decorates for winter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, spring, Easter, Fourth of July, fall and Thanksgiving.
Marsh said she starts on the Christmas display right after Halloween, spending nearly all day every day putting up decorations then several hours a day after that to maintain them.
She uses 15 different outlets to plug in all the pieces. Daily upkeep includes brushing snow off, digging snow out and lots of general straightening and checks.
“The blow ups: They have to be dug out,” said Marsh, admitting the elfish work has its hazards.
Garey said Marsh gets in some bad positions trying to arrange the winter wonderland each year. She gets on the roof, she climbs the ladder, she bends and stretches. He remembers one Halloween when she came dragging up to the house with battered face and broken arm.
“Most of my trips to the doctor have been from the lights,” Marsh said.
Garey said about weather effects: “The wind is our worst enemy.”
Marsh often battles nasty winter weather, saying wind and rain cause them to leave the lights off. Subzero weather proves another enemy of the seasonal show. Garey and Marsh say it makes the light wires brittle and easy to break.
Though they’ve never added up exactly how much it costs to power the display, Marsh says, “It’s probably about $400 for both places.”
The couple said the electrical load at the old family farm has always been a concern. This year they made about $1,100 in electrical improvements to give them peace of mind.
Garey and Marsh said in 10 years of doing the decorations, vandals have struck about four or five times. Marsh thinks it’s kids daring each other to do stupid things.
The couple laughs as they tell of one time when they heard someone outside saying, “Hurry up and take it!” Garey jumped into his truck and followed the vehicle he thought held thieves or vandals, all the way into River Falls to an apartment complex.
The driver was a man who had his wife and kids along. As Garey reached the parking lot and called out to them, he realized what the family had been taking: A picture!
Marsh said weather permitting, she usually flips the lights on at dark, about 5 p.m., and leaves them on until about 10 p.m.
To go see the lighted display, head west on County Road FF from South Main Street/Hwy. 29 and drive about four miles.