WESTLAKE, Ohio -- For more than two decades a Westlake man has displayed thousands of Christmas lights. In fact there are so many twinkling lights he openly jokes that “even Clark Griswold from the movie Christmas Vacation would be jealous.”
Since 1986 the lights have been a labor of love for Jim Shimelonis.
The husband and father, begins checking the bulbs in September and then takes five weeks to finish the display which includes both the front and back yard.
“That’s seven hours a day and seven days a week,” said Mr. Shimelonis.
In the beginning he says he hung the usual amount and certainly no more than 1,000 lights.
But now Jim has near 100,000 lights depending on the year. One “Merry Christmas” sign alone has 1,200 lights. He says sometimes he runs out of time stringing up the lights.
There are all sorts of features including a giant angel, Cleveland Browns Helmet, smiling Santa and singing Christmas trees. They are turned on at Thanksgiving and continue to sparkle until New Year’s Day.
A lighted candy cane path takes people to the backyard and each year hundreds of people stop by the house to see the glowing lights, sometimes Jim gets about a thousand a day.
“Senior citizen busses drive by and last Saturday there was a stretch, stretch, stretch limo. My God was that thing long,” exclaimed Jim.
Jim’s electric bill is about $600 per season but he doesn’t mind and says he will continue creating the displays as long as he can afford it.
In the past people offered him money but he refused to take it. However, when his mother passed away from cancer he began collecting money for the American Cancer Society.
Donations are not mandatory but they are appreciated. Over the years he has collected and donated about $40,000.
“I get some sad, sad stories from people that come out and see that,” said Jim.
But this “Father Christmas” is always ready with a hug or holiday smile.
Jim just enjoys bringing a little holiday cheer to everyone who sees his hard work.
He also has a contest for the children. The child who guesses the number of lights and comes closest to the actual count wins $25.
“Kids are the greatest thing in the world,” said Jim.
Although Jim and some other family members have also been diagnosed with cancer he says he will continue his light displays and spreading Christmas cheer as long as he can.
He says from his family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas.
You can see the lights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. most days and from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.