Homes: Displaying the spirit of the season
Displaying the spirit of the season
This Tuscola home is known for its outdoor light display.
Story: Jodi Heckel
Photos: John Dixon
Come December, the holiday decorations on the outside of the Tuscola home of Bruce Wood and Ron Dadiras get the attention of the neighborhood.
A stream of cars drives down the street in front of the home and through the alley in back to look at the multitude of lights and decorations. Greenery and bows adorn the fence and windows. Santa waves from his sleigh on the porch. A bear toboggans down a chute from a second-story window. Candy canes line the front walk. And an angel hovers on the roof.
But the inside of the 100-plus-year-old home deserves a look, too. It features lovely wood trim, a beamed living room ceiling and built-in leaded-glass cabinets flanking the fireplace. During the 2012 holiday season, a collection of nutcrackers lined the mantel and a Christmas village sat in the front windows. The tree in the front of the home had red and gold ornaments and 1,300 lights, while a toy train encircled the “red-and-white fun toy tree” in the home’s original kitchen.
It’s become a tradition for Wood and Dadiras to decorate their home, and they don’t want to disappoint the residents who drive by every year to enjoy the lights and see what’s new.
The home has been part of the Tuscola Christmas house walk, and Wood and Dadiras always get the “Griswold” award for their decorations, which they find vaguely insulting. They don’t like the connotation that, like the Griswolds, they just empty the garage of anything that lights up and throw it up.
“We try to make it more tasteful than the Griswolds,” Dadiras said.
Wood added: “It’s kind of like a house out of Dickens, only with Santa attached.”
Wood – a pharmacist and owner of Dicks Pharmacy in Arthur – bought the home from the estate of the former occupants nearly 10 years ago. He and Dadiras – who works at Dicks Pharmacy and as a stagehand at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, State Farm Center and the Virginia Theatre – have been working on it ever since.
They started with the kitchen, which took a year to renovate. Their contractor, John Leamon of Tuscola, removed a wall between the galley kitchen and sitting room to make a larger, more open area. The home’s original kitchen, next to the new kitchen, has an indoor charcoal grill.
A pew in the eating area originally was in the Mount Gilead Church. Wood and Dadiras bought it from the Piatt County Museum.
Wood and Dadiras like to entertain; they usually host a Christmas Eve dinner every year.
“The house lends itself to that very well,” Wood said.
They removed paneling and stripped woodwork – all with a green patina – in the bedroom; moved and added cabinets in the closet area of the master bedroom; and tore up carpet and refinished the wood on the first floor. They converted a small room they believe to have been a sewing room next to the master bedroom into a bathroom.
The two also rewired the home, replacing the knob and tube wiring. Their first year in the home, there wasn’t enough power to do all the decorating they do now.
The decorations change each year. Inside, the tree in the front of the house is the biggest, and it has been decorated with ribbons or garland in the past.
The red and white tree is fairly slim because its circumference must accommodate the train that circles it. The train came from a kit and – with the addition of a couple drops of vegetable oil – its smokestack will puff smoke as it circles the tree.
All the ornaments on the tree are toy-related or whimsical and include mice, snowmen and Santas. The ribbons and ornaments decorating it are all red and white.
Outside, Wood and Dadiras first decorate the fences, barn and windows with greenery and bows. The small windows on the home have wreaths.
“There are things to see in the daytime you won’t see at night,” Wood said. “It’s really an attractive winter scene.”
The lights last year included snowflakes hanging from the house, red balls on the corners and icicle lights on the eaves. The back of the garage had a Christmas tree made of netting lights. Dadiras re-did it four times last year before he was satisfied.
“You try and figure out what works, what looks good,” he said.
In front of the house were four large candy canes. Wood’s father made them from rebar. Wood and Dadiras put lights inside, then covered them with white garbage bags and put red plastic ribbons around the steel frame.
An angel perched on the roof (there used to be two, until one took flight on a windy day), and the word “Peace” was spelled out on the dormer.
The porch is always decorated last. Santa in his sleigh reappeared after an absence of several years. He used to wave and say, “Naughty or nice, I’d never give you a lump of coal. A fruitcake, maybe.” That function is broken now, but parents sometimes come up to the house and ask if they can take their kids’ pictures with the Santa.
Behind him, a bear parachuted onto the porch.
While Wood and Dadiras enjoy the decorating, the most frustrating thing is the constant repairs they must make to the outside decorations – rewiring when a string of lights won’t light on one side, fixing blown fuses and replacing bulbs.
Dadiras uses lots of cable ties and twist ties to keep wires from hanging down, and he uses lots of rubber bands to keep the lights from getting tangled while stored away.
Decorating starts on Nov. 2. The two fill the front porch of a house on Main Street in downtown Arthur with carved pumpkins every year, and Nov. 1 is designated for taking those down. It takes about two and a half weeks to get the greenery up at their home and the fences lit, and three to four weeks total to put all the decorations up.
The electric bill for the month the lights are all up equals about three months’ worth of air-conditioning in the summer.
All the expense and work is worth it for them, though.
“I just know how much joy it brings to people in the community,” Wood said. Dadiras added: “You’re making someone else a little happier.”