Light the night


When Bob Sebo was growing up in Salem years ago, it was a tradition that he and his parents would ride around in the car during the holidays to see the Christmas lights.

Now it’s Sebo’s home on Quaker Lane in Salem that people come from everywhere to see — all 2 million lights that he and his family display.

“It started out of interest of just decorating for Christmas,” Sebo said. “For a number of people, driving past our house is now part of their Christmas tradition.”

As the cars slowly go by the more than 11 acres of decorative lights, children and adults are awestruck at the displays of snowflakes, gifts, trains, poinsettias and Christmas trees — among many of the theme-based displays — that are outlined in traditional lights.

“These are all traditional lights,” Sebo said. “I like them better. The LEDs have a strange hue to them.”

One tree in the front is completely covered in white lights — 25,000 of them — and stays on all year. About every three or four years, however, the lights have to be replaced because the growth of the tree stretches the wires on the lights.

Sebo and his wife, Linda, said they enjoy the thrill people get out of seeing their Christmas display.

“It’s fun for us,” he said. “Many times we’ve been in Canton, Akron or Cleveland, and people will say, ‘Oh, you’re the people with the Christmas house.’”

“Linda is the guru of the thoughts on the lights,” he said. “She has vision and very positive ideas. She goes through the [order] book and selects what we want.”

“We really have pretty much everything we need now,” Linda said with a smile.

But the “Christmas House,” which also has 12 decorated trees inside, takes a lot of planning and preparation.

Linda sits down each year with their property manager, Jim Scullion, and figures out what lights to buy and where to put them.

This year, the “Merry Christmas” sign close to the road is new. The 18-foot-high waving Santa was added in 2008.

Sebo praised Scullion for guiding his crew of 10 workers to get all the lights up on time.

“Because of the humongous job this takes, we started the last week in September,” Sebo said. “We turn the lights on every Thanksgiving Eve. This year, we just finished the day before that.”

“Our biggest accolades go to Jim and his staff,” Sebo added. “They’re a year-round staff, and they love their job. You can tell they care because they’re concerned about getting things perfect.”

“Two million lights is a pretty good figure,” Sebo said. “All the lights are controlled from two switches. The breakers sound like a gunshot when the lights go on. We try not to use a lot of appliances when the lights are on.”

“The electric company loves us,” he said with a laugh. “The lights raise the December electric bill six times what it normally is.”

The lights go on at 5 p.m. and off at midnight each day from Thanksgiving Eve until New Year’s Day. On Jan. 2, Scullion and his crew begin the monumental task of taking the lights down and storing them for a year.

“It takes about three weeks,” Sebo said. “They replace lights and clean and wrap everything so they don’t have to waste time in the fall. We have about 2,000 square feet of storage, and we utilize the top floor of our carriage house.

The Sebos agreed to have a tour of the grounds and the house as a fundraiser for the Storybook Museum of Salem two weekends ago.

Because Quaker Lane ends in a cul de sac where vehicles sometimes have to back up to make the turn, one would think the neighbors would get irritated about all the traffic.

“They don’t mind it at all ... at least they haven’t said anything,” Sebo said. “Sometimes I get razzed about the time it takes them to get down the street to get home. But a number of them have jumped right in to the decorating process.”

The steady stream of cars that line the road come from many places, including across the Pennsylvania line, Sebo said.

“The reaction to the first year we did it was so positive,” he said. “And the nice thank-you notes that we get from some people — wow!

“It’s such an enjoyment that we can bring to people.”

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