Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Competition
By Lisa Pett
A trio of neighbors at the corner of Rice St. and Michigan Avenue go all out lighting up their corner for the holidays.
Jim and Kathy Mansavage claim the start of an annual, friendly, cooperative, almost competitive tradition of decorating the outside of their tidy ranch home with Christmas lights.
Jim, the resource officer at SPASH, said, “We started it all almost 10 years ago.” His wife, Kathy, confirmed this while watering the couple’s decorated Christmas tree. “It just started taking off from there, every year.”
The lights were soon joined by yard displays, holiday figures, and, for the Haffenbredles across the street, multi-colored lights strung along their fence.
“We have grandkids,” said Sandy Haffenbredle. “And Dave just loves doing this for them.”
All three houses sit a block away from McKinley Elementary. Jim Mansavage said, “The elementary kids love it. They enjoy the lights coming and going from school activities.”
The Mansavages and Haffenbredles both added outdoor speakers to their displays two years ago and pipe Christmas music to add to the festive atmosphere. As the lights come on, traffic slows a little on Michigan Avenue as drivers catch sight of the displays.
The decorating schedule is subject to the weather. Don Liebe, whose brown, two-story house sits on the corner of Rice and Michigan, said his display isn’t what it was last year. The early cold snap and long hours at work prevented him from putting up as many lights as he has in the past. “I sort of slacked off this year,” he said. “But there’s always next year.”
The Mansavages started before Thanksgiving. “It takes me about two days to string the lights.” said Jim. “There was a short break in the cold so we jumped on it and went all out that day.” Dave Haffenbredle spent an entire day stringing the lights on their home and yard.
All three neighbors go to great effort and take on the added expense of the electricity bills for their displays. “Oh, sure, it runs up the electricity,” said Jim, “but we always budget for it.”
The neighbors all share the appreciation of the people who stop regularly to enjoy their displays, especially the kids. “It’s really enjoyable,” said Liebe.
“We do this all for the kids,” said Jim Mansavage. “Even the grown up ones.”