The Beacon-News inaugural holiday lights map
By Judy Buchenot For Sun-Times Media December 13, 2013 4:08PM
Folks in the Lehnertz Ave neighborhood in Aurora gather in front of the Nativity scene while waiting for "the blessing," to begin on Sunday, Dec. 08, 2013. | Donnell Collins/For Sun-Times Media
The inaugural holiday lights map in The Beacon-News includes the following displays:
1. Lehnertz Avenue, Aurora
2. 615 Charlotte Lane, Oswego
3. 39 Saugatuck Road, Montgomery
4. 531 Florida Ave., Aurora
5. 2421 and 2427 Autumn Grove Circle, Aurora
6. 989 Wellington Circle, Aurora
7. 838 Hammond Ave., Aurora
8. 2621 Cheshire Drive, Aurora
9. 1425 Cumberland Road, Aurora
10. 445 E. Cimarron, Aurora
On the Web
For a Google map of The Beacon-News’ 2013 holiday lights map, visit http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=214950205952504786055.0004ed5b866298bc86042
Updated: January 16, 2014 6:21AM
Editor’s note: Traditions make the holidays special each year, and The Beacon-News is starting a new one. This year, we asked readers for nominations of their favorite decorated houses, but we couldn’t start without bringing up the famous Lehnertz Avenue display. Here’s what readers suggested, along with a few of our own thoughts.
In the Fox Valley, the 48 homes on Lehnertz Avenue have been lighting up holiday magic for more than six decades.
What started off small has become tradition for several generations, transcending the simple into the spectacular. For 62 years, the street has been transformed into a drive-through visual depiction of Christ’s birth complete with scripture, music and life-size figures.
Carolyn Clemen, who moved into her home on Lehnertz Avenue in 1950, has watched the display grow from a crib and stable to the neighborhood project it is today.
“It has really changed over the years,” Clemen said. “... It may look different, but the meaning is still the same. It still is the story of the birth of Jesus.”
Despite the cold weather last Sunday, she says many people still came out for the annual crib blessing.
“People who once lived here come back to see it again,” Clemen said. “... I have people say that they came as children and now are bringing their children to see it. I have seen so many generations grow up on this street, and we have all shared this project.
“It is a part of their lives.”
When someone buys a home on Lehnertz Avenue, they become part of this decorating tradition. It started in 1952 when 14 homeowners decided to team up to build a display. Using lumber scraps from their recently built homes, the neighborhood men put together a crib and just kept on building.
The display grew each year, and in 1958, the community association received a letter from American Airlines telling them that pilots try to fly over the street so that passengers could view the unique displays. In 1960, the community association counted 27,000 cars going down the street to view the display. No one has counted since, but the cars still keep forming long lines on weekends.
The display is continually changing. The crib has moved down the street three times, ending up in a corner of Garfield Park. In 1956, Lehnertz resident Frank Zenner painted a Bethlehem backdrop using a Christmas card for inspiration and seven 4-by-10-feet sheets of plywood as a canvas.
Every other year the neighbors hold a garage sale to pay for renovations since the camels, Kings, shepherds, angels, carolers and other figures need periodic restoration.
“Last year we had to paint 84 sheep,” Lehnertz resident Mary Streit said.
To get directions to the display, enter 720 Lehnertz Ave. into a GPS or map search engine. Lights will be on daily from 5 until 10:30 p.m. through Jan. 3. Lehnertz Circle at the end of the street also features a Snoopy Christmas series of displays in front of more than a dozen homes.
While there’s no competing with the Lehnertz Avenue display, other Fox Valley homeowners have given it their best shot. Here are some holiday wonders to consider driving by this season:
2. The Stefanski home, 615 Charlotte Lane, Oswego
Lawrence Stefanski began putting up decorations 35 years ago and has been adding and updating pieces ever since.
As a professional electrician, he has the skills to keep vintage items, like his candy cane arches and gingerbread house, in brilliant glory. He even has updated some display pieces with LED lights.
The peppermint candy canes down his driveway are easy, but the lights on the evergreens require the use of a bucket lift.
“Those trees grow about 2 feet a year, so pretty soon, I won’t be able to get to the top anymore,” Stefanski says. “But until then, I’ll keep trying.”
Timers turn on the more than 15,000 lights each evening at 5 p.m.
“I started to do this for my kids, and now I do it for everyone to enjoy,” Stefanski says.
3. McMinn home, 139 Saugatuck Road, Montgomery
After putting up 200 lights on his roof, Kevin McMinn got to work on mounting Santa and his reindeer on 2-by-4s that he was going to strap to the roof’s peak.
Then his wife pointed out that the lead reindeer was missing the traditional Rudolph red nose. McMinn went to work to give the reindeer its brilliant legendary nose with a red light bulb before putting the rest of the reindeer on the roof and the more than 1,000 other lights around the yard.
Keep this address handy, because McMinn puts out a fairly elaborate display at Halloween, too, including devils climbing out of trees and Dracula waiting for a victim.
4. The Brady home, 531 Florida Ave., Aurora
Lonnie Brady takes time off from going to the gym to put up his decorations over a three-week period. He changes the colors of lights every year. This year, he is using red and green, but he is thinking of trying red, white and blue next year. Lights on every window and a reindeer-filled yard make this a house worth viewing.
5. Wanat and Berthoud homes, 2421 and 2427 Autumn Grove Circle, Aurora
About three years ago, Neal Wanat and his next-door neighbor teamed up to fill a space between their two homes with Christmas decorations. A tall evergreen tree was the beginning and then came the “Merry Christmas” sign. Each year they have worked together to put up shooting stars, reindeers and lights for a cooperative Christmas display.
6. Roberts home, 989 Wellington Circle, Aurora
When Susan Roberts moved into her home 19 years ago, she planted an evergreen tree. Shortly after, she lost her longtime canine companion, Rosie. She then began to refer to the evergreen as “Rosie’s tree.”
About 10 years ago, she decided to put a few ornaments on the tree and lit it with a flood light. Each year she replaces broken ornaments and adds a few more. This year she has 299 ornaments on the 30-foot tall tree.
She hires a crew to place the ornaments since the tree has grown so tall, but she enjoys sharing this tribute to her beloved Rosie. People passing by often stop and ask if they can take a picture in front of this simple yet elegant tree.
7. 838 Hammond Ave., Aurora
This home was brilliantly lit by a dad and four of his six children. The entire home flashes to match the beats of Christmas carols that are played during the evening.
A few others worth a visit:
8. The Duncan home, 2621 Cheshire Drive, Aurora
9. The Garcia home, 1425 Cumberland Road, Aurora
10. The Knuth home, 445 E. Cimarron, Aurora