Lighting up at Rocky

For more than 15 years, Alfred von Hollen was the only show in town when it came to extreme Christmas light extravaganzas.

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE — For more than 15 years, Alfred von Hollen was the only show in town when it came to extreme Christmas light extravaganzas.

However, for the past few years another Rocky family has staged its own Yuletide celebration in lights — 80,000 of them give or take a few bulbs.

So does this mean a rivalry in revelry is in the works? Will there be a light-off for best display honours?

Not a chance.

“I don’t call it rivalry. I’m ecstatic,” says Alfred von Hollen, 61, who is celebrating 20 years of turning night into multi-coloured, festive day at his Rocky two-storey.

His home and yard at 5725 57th St. Close are illuminated with 110,000 LED lights and feature 85 inflatable figures.

“If there are more of us doing this, it doesn’t make me seem quite so — how would we say — eccentric,” says the retired teacher with a hearty chuckle.

“It’s more fun to have others doing it.”

The appropriately named couple, Sheryl and Duane Iceton, have been doing their light display for the last five or six years. Sheryl has lost count.

It’s actually the continuation of an incandescent tradition they began when they lived at Rainbow Lake.

But they had to scale back when they moved to a Rocky neighbourhood about 13 years ago.

The move to an acreage six years ago set the stage for a light show comeback.

“(Duane) did the house up really good in town. But now we have the room. That’s why he’s done it up a lot better,” she says.

Now, their place on Secondary Hwy 598 in the McNutt subdivision in town boasts 80,000 lights around their property, festooning their trees.

To cap off the experience, visitors can even take an inner tube ride down a slide to the parking area. (Please return tubes to the top when you’re done).

For the Icetons, too, it’s only Christmas spirit, not competition, that motivates their yuletide illuminations.

“We do it for our own enjoyment,” says Sheryl. The couple has a 14-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son.

They’ve had as many as 200 people pass through their yard in an evening.

The Icetons, like the von Hollens, are collecting for the local food bank, and they’ve already carted six boxes worth over there.

Von Hollen says he passes on the word about the Icetons’ display to as many of his visitors as he can.

“It’s a little different. He’s got big trees. He’s got the tubes.

“It’s fun. It’s great to have almost a team effect because I share stuff with Duane. I’ve helped him. I’ve given him stuff.”

He’s also pondered whether the Icetons might be willing to carry the Von Hollen mantle when they get a little too old to be climbing ladders and devoting the 350 hours of work it takes to make their home shine.

“The time may come when the von Hollens get old, and as our knees and shoulders and brain give out on us we may think, ‘Hmmm, well now we’ve got somebody to pass this on to.’ ”

Von Hollen says he’s excited at the possibility that Rocky could emerge as a genuine Christmas tourist attraction if others follow his festive lead.

“I’m quite excited about it. I think it’s awesome. I think if the Wright brothers could look back at what they started they would be thrilled.

“If Marconi could looked back to what he did with radio, and Alexander Graham Bell the telephone . . . I imagine he’s very ecstatic.

“Calgary has the lights at the zoo, Edmonton has its legislative buildings display — why not Rocky Mountain House too?”

Von Hollen says he’d love to see all his neighbours join in and turn the entire close into a must-see Christmas destination.

Just his home alone has already become a celebrity. WestJet pilots can see it from thousands of feet and routinely point it out to passengers.

One person even told him that his light display showed up on NASA satellite images, although he hasn’t managed to track them down online yet.

There could be another Christmas light display in the works.

The folks at Canadian Tire told him a local family had picked up $2,400 worth of lights.

The von Hollens are open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. until Dec. 28.

The Icetons welcome visitors until Dec. 31. Food bank donations are appreciated.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com