There are Christmas lights displays and then there are stop-what-you're-doing-and-stare Christmas lights displays.
This is the story of one of those spectacles.
The Holiday Lights on York Avenue/Schultz Family Lights on the east side of St. Paul features more than 60,000 lights choreographed to computerized music, and from 300 to 500 figures across 11 — that's right, 11 — yards. Oh, and a virtual Santa.
It's mostly the work of longtime resident Doug Schultz. He's lived there with his family for about 30 years.
In the beginning, Schultz was just decorating his own house for Christmas. But then, about eight years ago, his mother passed away right before Thanksgiving.
"To keep myself busy during that time frame, I started looking at going bigger with the Christmas decorating that I was doing," he said.
So he asked a few of his neighbors if he could use their yards as part of the display. The second year, he was up to four houses. Then he got the people across the street.
Now, he's up to 11 yards, the most ever for the display.
"Most of them say yeah, especially because they don't have to do any of the work," he joked.
The entire extravaganza takes two weeks to set up. Schultz takes the week before and during Thanksgiving off of work, and then works from about 8 a.m. until dark every day, moving items out of his garage (yes, he stores it all in his three-car garage), placing figures in the yards, putting up lights and running electrical cords throughout.
He does get some help from his son and neighbors — one decorates her own yard and the empty lot next door, while another neighbor picks up a few items each year for the display.
As for whether the whole setup runs up his electricity bill, that's a no.
"We only see about $60 bump for the month of December," he said, noting that most of the lights are LED and that they aren't all on at the same time. "I've offered up (to my neighbors) that I will pay their electric bump for the month of December and October, but I've yet to have a single one hit me up for it."
About six years ago, the neighborhood branched out into an extensive Halloween display but Schultz doesn't foresee any other holiday displays beyond that.
He also doesn't see an end to the Christmas show anytime soon.
"The best part for me is we have what we call a virtual Santa in the upstairs window," Schultz said. "To sit in the house, I can hear the people out front, you can hear the kids saying hi to Santa and waving to him."
"Just interacting with them and seeing the joy that it brings to the kids and everybody that comes to the displays."
If you go
Holiday Lights on York Avenue/Schultz Family Lights
When: 5 to 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31, weather permitting
Where: 1526 York Ave., St. Paul
Music: Broadcast on your car stereo. Tune into 91.5 FM
Additional info: Food donations are collected each night for the Merrick Community Services' food shelf, which supports the Greater East Side of St. Paul.