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Liturgical artist creates large, lighted angel in his Fargo yard

FARGO -- There is an angel watching over the Horace Mann neighborhood. Of course, many residents in this tight-knit community would claim there are a number of angels among them, but the one spirit that visits 1218 2nd St. N. during the holidays ...

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FARGO - There is an angel watching over the Horace Mann neighborhood.

Of course, many residents in this tight-knit community would claim there are a number of angels among them, but the one spirit that visits 1218 2nd St. N. during the holidays shines brightest.

Nearly ever year for the past two decades, David and Jan Christy have brought a roughly 13-foot angel to their front yard for the holidays. The ethereal visitor has become an iconic attraction for the whole neighborhood and the larger community.

David is a designer and a liturgical artist with large pieces at Calvary United Methodist Church in Fargo and Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead. While some people decorate with store-bought displays, the Christys build their celestial spirit every year.

The heavenly creature is constructed over metal conduit, with veins of white Christmas lights flowing throughout and fleshed out with pallet-wrap, a heavier, industrial cellophane. The wrap catches the light on and inside the structure, helping to create the glow. In the wind or the breeze, the material - up to 9,000 feet - shimmers, billows and flutters as if the angel were hovering in the yard. The angel holds a long, roughly 16-foot staff, upon which a ball of lights creates a star, casting light to a manger below.

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A styrofoam face - the angel's only real feature - gazes down to the manger, but where the baby Jesus might be, a bundle of lights radiates.

David says it was his wife, Jan, who started the project about 20 years ago, but over the years he's taken over.

In the beginning, it was actually made of ice. "It was a lot of cold work," he says.

They would work late at night when the weather was coolest, using a garden hose to spray a chicken wire structure. "That froze real nice," he says. "People still think it's ice."

They switched over to conduit and pallet wrap years ago, but he says it still takes a solid day-and-a-half of work to get it all together.

"As we got older, it got a little harder to do," he says. "It takes so much energy to put it up, if you don't have the stamina."

Last year, the angel never appeared as David recovered from an arm injury.

The hard work is worth it to the hundreds of people who drive by for a look at the angel.

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"At night, we have cars stop by to take a picture. We call it drive-by shootings," he says with a laugh.

Kelly Binfet moved in two doors down 15 years ago and was struck by how many cars would slow down for a better look. She tells people looking for her place that she is two houses south of "the angel house," and in turn she has people tell her that they come look at the angel right after looking at the Sertoma Club's light displays in Lindenwood Park.

"I think it's just a gift to the entire neighborhood," she says.

"It sure touches a lot of people; people especially on the north side are grateful to see the angel up," David says. "It touches people in such a personal way, especially at Christmas. It's amazing," he says.

"Many people have lost a child, and this gives them hope and comfort."

He says that years ago, his wife lost a child, but he doesn't go into details.

Jan Christy declined to be interviewed, saying only, "Let the angel speak for herself."

There may be a personal connection between the Christys and their angel, but it's not exclusive just to them. Binfet lost her sister in December 1998, but says that even today the angel provides some added light in this long month.

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"It's something so great at Christmas to have that angel," Binfet says.

Christy has heard stories like that time and again. He says the reaction he gets from the angel is "overwhelming." David says he was recently inside when he heard someone knocking on his front door. It was a woman asking if she could come back with her mother and take a picture of her with the angel. The 90-year-old mother was concerned because the angel wasn't up last year, and the daughter wanted to get a picture of her mother with the glowing guardian.

"We never thought it would be this kind of blessing," David says.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTAFARGO
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