Tuesday September 02, 2014





A Christmas tale all lit up

Seasonal light displays abound in neighbourhoods across Kamloops, and there's always one that sparkles almost beyond belief
Murray Mitchell

Louise Edwards stands in front of her brightly lit home, ever a carousel of season displays, in the 600 block of Pine Street.

As the snow falls and the holidays near, families are brightening up their corner of Kamloops with colourful light displays celebrating the season.

Perhaps the most spectacular display — on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pine Street — attracts hundreds of visitors from all over the region each year.

But after 30 years of awe-inspiring adornments, a thief nearly killed the Christmas spirit at the Edwards house this year.

Fortunately, goodwill triumphed when folks heard about the crime.

Since the early 1980s, Louise and Ron Edwards have been attracting attention with the Christmas decorations on their property, adding a bit more each year until the night sky glowed with their efforts.

The spectacle includes two 15-metre tall trees lit up to the very top of the evergreen branches, a blazing nativity scene, a miniature Santa with his sleigh and a candy cane tree.

It all began decades ago when neighbours came around to thank the couple for buying the dilapidated house rather than tearing it down.

They were further celebrated for stringing up one modest set of lights around the old porch that year.

“You had a real sense of the roots and the importance of the house to the neighbourhood.

They could remember when this house was in its prominence,” said Louise.

She found that it made her happy to make her neighbours happy.

Later on, the lights became her symbol of empowerment when she encountered resistance and even threats as a clinical counsellor trying to treat victims of sexual assault.

“I was taking a lot of flak, I remember thinking to myself ‘This place is going to be lit up like they’ve never seen before,’” she said. “Putting light into darkness — it was very powerful for me. Like a blazing statement.”

Those days are long gone and Louise now finds herself on the right side of history when it comes to that wrenching subject. Yet she still finds the energy — and cost — to take on the monumental project each year.

The Edwards spend about $2,000 on power alone to light up the place at Christmas. And Louise spends hundreds more each year on new lights and decorations.

Their admirers are not oblivious to what they must be paying out. About 12 years ago, neighbours chastised Louise for neglecting to put out a container for donations. She complied and today, kids from all over the neighbourhood will drop off quarters before helping themselves to sweets from her candy cane tree.

The donations don’t make up for what the Edwards shell out, but Louise doesn’t mind.

She did mind, however, when someone took off last month with several strands of brand new purple and white LED lights that she estimates were worth about $500.

It’s the first such incident in 30 years, and she had some choice words for the thief.

“That son of a bitch,” she said shortly after it happened. “They were stunning lights on two gorgeous trees. Now I can’t even touch those trees — it turns me right off.”

It was almost enough to make her pack it all in — and it was certainly enough to deflate her  enthusiasm for the annual display.

She posted a note explaining why the trees were not as elaborate as in past years.

“People in the neighbourhood will wonder why I’m sloppy,” she said.

She was right. A HandyDart driver with passengers stopped to get an explanation about the bare tree one morning while Louise was outside. When the driver learned about the crime, something unexpected happened.

“She gave me $20 for lights. She was like ‘We all agreed we have to give you something,’ ” said Louise. “That’s an unusual thing. I thought it was sweet.”

That buoyed her faith in people and re-invigorated her dedication to the project. But the goodwill wasn’t over.

Passers by seemed deeply affected and regularly expressed their regrets.

Then Louise spotted a package on her front step — it was two sets of replacement LED lights. The modest note attached said “Care of the Logan Lake Ambulance Service.”

“There was a little note taped with Band-Aids. Isn’t that priceless?” said a jubilant Louise.

They weren’t quite enough to replace the stolen lights, but they were enough to bring Louise back to the joy of the season.

* * *

KAMLOOPS IN LIGHTS

Whether households put up one string of lights or hundreds, the effect warms the heart and attracts hordes of admirers.

Below are a few of the displays highlighted by Daily News readers as well as those included in the City of Kamloops senior citizen Christmas light tour.

* 712 East Shuswap Road

South Kamloops:

* 607 Pine Street

* Sixth Avenue to 10th Avenue south of Columbia Street

Sahali:

* 594 Carmel Court

Juniper Ridge:

* Qu’Appelle Blvd.

Batchelor Heights:

* 1731 North River Drive

* 1016 Raven Drive

North Kamloops:

* 601 Alberni Ave.

* 1746 Happyvale Ave.

* 2425 Paulsen Place

* 102 Fairview Avenue

Brocklehurst:

* 2425 Paulsen Place

* Invemere Place

* Inglewood Drive

* Parkcrest Avenue from Windbreak Street to Schreiner Street

* 1195 Mclean St.

Westsyde:

* 610 Countrysyde place

* 899 Ida Lane

Rayleigh:

* 194 Michael Way

* 293 Montego


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