Christmas display lights the night along Highway 81 near Buxton
The roots of the Swanson farm’s dazzling display were planted about 15 years ago on Nov. 29 when Craig Swanson surprised Carla by putting lights on the 2-foot-high evergreen trees he planted in the farmstead near Buxton they moved to from their home in Cummings. Amid the pandemic, he went all out. This is the first in a series of stories on how area residents find their inner creativity during a pandemic.
BUXTON – Craig Swanson had a brilliant idea to pass the time when he was quarantined with COVID-19 this past fall. He put up his outdoor holiday lights.
Swanson, whose wife and two children had COVID-19, showed no symptoms of being ill, so spent several hours a day for more than a week in October winding lights around trees, wrapping his mailbox and putting up displays.
“He just kept decorating and decorating and decorating,” said Swanson’s wife, Carla. “Coming from the south, you can see the lights from the interstate.”
By Halloween, Craig Swanson had finished putting up the strings of lights and freestanding figures – about 75 – in the couple’s farmyard along U.S. Highway 81 southeast of Buxton.
The roots of the Swanson farm’s dazzling display were planted about 15 years ago on Nov. 29 when Craig Swanson surprised Carla by putting lights on the 2-foot-high evergreen trees he planted in the farmstead near Buxton after moving from their home in Cummings.
“He surprised with lights on our anniversary,” said Carla Swanson, pointing out that her husband’s penchant for holiday decorating predated that milestone. “He actually had this obsession with Christmas lights when he was in high school. When he lived in town, him and the neighbors had a competition on who could decorate their house the most. One would try to outdo the other."
Each year, after her husband decorated the evergreens on their farm with lights, he has added a few more decorations to the display .
“He buys after Christmas, so we have backups to his backups," she said. “He has gotten more and more creative."
Additions over the years include a snowman, nativity scene and a holiday greeting. Meanwhile, Santa driving his sleigh pulled by four reindeer is on the roof of the Swansons' house.
“His new thing this year was the tree when you drive in the yard," she said of the large red and green bulbs and flashing blue and white snowflakes intertwined in the branches of the tree near the north end of the Swansons’ lights.
The Swansons also this year brought some decorations – a Santa Bear, giant snowman and Olaf from "Frozen" – out of retirement.
“The blow-up stuff had some tears in them from a few years back, and we had to sew them up,” Carla Swanson said.
This year’s lights display has attracted attention.
“There are a lot more people who have driven by, so the word has spread,” she said. “They slow down.”
“The kids like it,” Craig Swanson said.
Despite the numerous lights, the Swansons' electricity bill doesn’t rise appreciably because lights are energy-efficient LED and plugged into just two outlets.
“It takes more to heat the chicken coop with heat lamps,” Carla Swanson said.
The Swansons will keep the lights up until at least late January. Last year, they didn't take them down until March in honor of the Hillsboro-Central Valley boys basketball team.
“We kept the lights on blue and white until then,” Carla Swanson said.
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