Wichita and its environs are alive with some very elaborate outdoor Christmas displays and decorations. They’re visible from major thoroughfares and tucked into narrow residential streets, along with their more humble but still beautiful counterparts. A person can get evenings of entertainment just driving around town and into the suburbs this time of year.
We went behind the scenes of some of the more unusual — new as well as long-time — displays this weekend before Christmas. Enjoy this closer look into the lights, and see the full list of addresses of displays that readers have told us about, along with a map, at http://www.kansas.com/entertainment/holidays/.
Santa’s at the window
Candy Cane Lane on Azure Circle in west Wichita has been wall-to-wall with lights for years — 18 houses so brimming with things to see that it’s sometimes hard to spot the more subtle additions.
Even when they’re sensational. At 1021 N. Azure Circle, if you happen to be captivated by the elf-manned cannon launching presents into a chimney next door, you might miss seeing Santa at the window, waving at you, unpacking his bag of presents, drinking milk and eating cookies.
Scott McMurtrie is an engineering test pilot at Cessna who doesn’t want to give away all of his — or Santa’s — secrets. So he’ll leave the description of Santa’s appearance in his window at the word “hologram.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like that in Wichita,” said McMurtrie, who worked on the hologram for three or four years before it was a go this year.
“The overall gist of it is to make it look like Santa is in our house doing his thing.
“I wanted something different other than lights. I wanted the kids to be kind of surprised, and we did prove that, because last Friday and Saturday we sat out there with a fire, and the younger kids when they saw it they would say, ‘Santa! Santa!’ and one of them said, ‘He’s waving to us!’ I think I accomplished it.”
Be aware that you can see Santa at the window only until he must be on his way to all good girls and boys on Christmas Eve.
‘A Christmas Story’ comes to life in west Wichita
Alan Grossman has always enjoyed putting Christmas displays together in the front yard of his house at 818 N. Cedar Park St. near Central and 119th Street West, on the way to Candy Cane Lane. But a few years ago, his wife, Linda, suggested they adopt a theme and stick with it.
The family, which also includes 12-year-old son Mathew, settled on “A Christmas Story,” a classic movie from 1983 that airs over and over during the holiday season. Three years ago, they crafted a pole with the figure of a boy, his tongue stuck firmly to it. It was so realistic, Linda Grossman said, that people would frequently stop to check on the boy’s welfare. Every year since, they’ve added another scene from the movie.
Now, the front yard also has a set-up representing the moment Ralphie gets kicked down the Santa slide in Macy’s, a figurine of Ralphie in the pink bunny suit his aunt sent him, and a box marked “Fragile” sitting on its side with a leg lamp nearby. That was this year’s addition, which Alan Grossman spent months building in the garage. “Every time we opened the garage door, I wondered what the neighbors must think,” Linda Grossman said with a laugh.
The display draws fans every year, who aren’t the least bit hesitant to tromp around the Grossmans’ yard, snapping pictures. But the family doesn’t mind.
“We’re hoping it will make people laugh and feel good when they go by,” Linda Grossman said.
‘Magic of Christmas’ in Goddard
When you head west on Kellogg out of Wichita to Goddard, turning south between Pizza Hut and Marcie’s restaurant, you arrive at a quiet Cedar Street that ends in an explosion of colorful lights — the “Magic of Christmas” in Goddard.
Eric Bader engineers a five-song light show at his house at the corner of Cedar and Fourth (143 E. Fourth St.). The show is bigger than the location allows, and you want to park your car at every possible angle to try to see it in all its glory.
Bader has been doing the display for five years, with five mini shows sequenced to music that you can listen to on your radio at 98.5 FM. This year the tunes are “Wizards in Winter,” “Amazing Grace, Party Version,” “Techno Jingle Bells,” “NutRocker” and “Christmas Medley.” An animated band that appears to be playing some of the music adds a humorous touch.
The show is scheduled to run from 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 27.
‘Lights on Gold’
Matt Robertson came up with the idea to have a lights show at his family’s house in south Wichita when he was a senior in high school. With his family’s help, he’s putting it on for the sixth year this year, at 5336 S. Gold.
At first, he couldn’t even turn all the lights on at once, because the house’s electrical system couldn’t handle it. An electrician was hired to increase the capacity. But now that the lights are LEDs, that’s not a problem.
The upbeat song-and-light show is very concentrated, with lights on the roof joining in the vibe. “Everyone likes ‘Wizards in Winter.’ I’m pretty proud of that,” says Robertson, now 23. He says he doesn’t change the songs often. “It takes a lot of time to program the songs, so once I find one I really like, I’m hesitant to change it.”
“Lights on Gold” (website www.lightsongold.com) has been getting more traffic this year, Robertson says. It’s on from 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 to midnight Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 31.
“We’re glad our neighbors are excited about it and willing to put up with it, because that could make or break the whole thing.”
A very vehicular Christmas near 21st and Maize
If Santa isn’t sure what vehicle would best suit him during his off months, Dreux Schwaiger should be able to help. The homeowner, who has lived for 27 years at 9912 W. 18th St., not far from 21st and Maize, dreams up a different transportation-themed display each year and sets it up in dramatic fashion in the front yard of his house.
This year, Santa is strapped into a futuristic-looking helicopter that Schwaiger, a cabinet-builder for a local aircraft company, made himself. It’s lighted up and even has has a rotating chopper blade on top. In previous years, he’s built station wagons, buses, trolly cars and more. In 2011, Dreux’s “holiday snow cat” was named a runner-up in a national contest put on by Ace Hardware.
The neighbors always look forward to finding out what Dreux is going to build, said his wife, Marilyn.
“They always start asking early on, ‘What’s it going to be this year? What’s it going to be?’ ” she said. “But he never lets people know until Thanksgiving.”
Augusta display is worth the drive
Christmas decorating is a family hobby turned obsession for the Socha family, who live at 10813 SW Tawakoni Road in Augusta. The display utilizes nearly 30,000 lights decorating a huge display of animated scenes, which Crystal Socha can rattle off with ease.
“There’s a Santa with a reindeer that’s flying through the air, a 20-foot tree, a penguin that slides off an igloo, a sea monster that breathes fire, trains, a snowman, smaller trees and an elf that throws decorations onto a tree.”
The family, which also includes brother Casey and mother and father Wayne and Marie, has built some of the creations and purchased others online. They work hard putting up the huge display, which is spread over about four acres. The family also spends much of their time trying to get the word out so people will drive to Augusta to check it out.
The family has been putting a display up for about 10 years, Crystals said.
“It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s just part of Christmas, part of the Christmas spirit, to get out there and do it and spend some time together putting it up.”
To find the display, which Crystal describes as “worth the trip,” head west on 54 toward Augusta and turn right onto Tawakoni Road, which is just past Parks Motors of Augusta.
Notable lights displays
Here are the outdoor Christmas displays that readers recommend in the Wichita area:
1122 N. Lawrence Court dark to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, dark to 10:30 or 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday depending on traffic
3805 E. Longview Lane (Lights on Longview Lane); 6 p.m. to midnight daily
143 E. Fourth, Goddard (Magic of Christmas); 6 to 10 p.m. daily, weather permitting
4620 S. Sycamore (Lights on Sycamore)
261 N. Robin Road
1812 S. Millwood; 6 to 10 p.m. daily; tune to 97.3 FM on the radio
6726 W. Ocieo St.; 5:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Dec. 31; tune to 106.9 FM on the radio
6529 W. Ocieo St.
5336 S. Gold; 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; tune to 99.5 FM on the radio; lightsongold.com.
3231 N. Lake Ridge Court; lights synchronized to music
2 West Parkway
620 N. Stratford (Marshall Family Christmas Lights); through Jan. 6.
206 S. Miller, Potwin
12602 E. Osie St.
1462 N. Coolidge
740 N. Sheridan
100 block North Pershing
5726 E. Perryton, Bel Aire
820 S. James, Maize
821 Opal, Maize
Mere Ridge, northeast corner of Ridge Road and West 21st Street
114 and 201 S. Coachhouse, and turning into Texas Street
Candy Cane Lane, 1000 block of North Azure Circle
1602 W. Browning, Andover
43 N. Mission, Eastborough
14310 E. Castle Dr.
5079 SW Fulton Road, Towanda (“Lights of Kindness”)
10813 SW Tawakoni Road, Augusta
818 N. Cedar Park St.
9912 W. 18th St. North
12601 W 71st St. South, Clearwater
2529 N. High Point Circle, on Candy Cane Lane in Reflection Ridge