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(Updated 11 a.m., Dec. 15)
Belcourt resident keeps the lights burning bright for 17 years

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Gilles Léger has been wowing passersby with his Christmas light display for the past 17 years. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Not many people put up a display of Christmas lights like Gilles and Rachelle Léger.

The Orléans couple annually transform their large, sloping front lawn into something that would rival the Griswold family and their illuminated creation from National Lampoon’s classic movie, Christmas Vacation.

This year is no exception as there is a strong possibility they have outdone themselves with their current edition.

From long strings of coloured lights, a one-of-a-kind painted Nativity scene that includes roosters, countless gingerbread men, giant ornaments, reindeer and festival ropes, the Leger’s do a first class job when it comes to decorating.

“I’ve always been attracted to Christmas lights, I love making my property come to life,” says Gilles Léger, who just completed his 17th year as the architect behind the Yuletide masterpiece.

“I really enjoy the thought, the work and the finished product. It’s my way of enjoying the Christmas season as well as giving back to the Orléans community.”

Once Halloween is over, Léger gets to work as he heads to his garage and begins the meticulous job of deciding what goes up and what stays.

He starts by dragging the carefully selected contents out of storage and then formulates a game plan by putting everything in place.

“I check the lights to see if they are working then it takes me about 10 hours to connect everything. From there my goal is to be up and running for the annual Parade of Lights,” Léger explains.

This year’s parade was held on November 26 and Léger met his self-imposed deadline with dozens of vehicles making a slight detour from St. Joseph Blvd. to see his house on Belcourt.

The property features three large Maple trees which Léger magically transforms into Christmas light towers.

The retired CRTC employee estimates that it takes close to four hours to set up each tree.

Once the trees are done, Léger then gets to work on the ground.

His mindset and focus is similar to a world class chess master as he ponders his moves and decoration placements before deciding on their final resting spots.

The weather can sometimes be a deterrent, but after doing it for so many years Léger knows it will all come together.

“Everything always works out in the end despite experiencing a few hiccups like long periods of rain, high winds or a major snow storm,” Léger says.
“We’ve been lucky the last couple of years with mild weather during November, it’s made my job a lot easier.”

If you’re wondering what the added cost to his energy bill is for such an endeavour, Léger readily accepts the additional cost and compares it to the cost of two rounds of golf.

“My wife and I enjoy doing this, we know it comes at a cost but we also get great satisfaction that our children, grandchildren and the community enjoy it as well.”

Over the years, hundreds if not thousands of people have made the trip down Belcourt Boulevard to see “the house with the lights”. It’s almost like a pilgrimage for many.

The two houses across the street also have impressive light displays, making it a must-see destination for Christmas light aficionados.

The Légers have dozens of stories about people driving by in their cars and even tour buses to take pictures of their display.

With the countdown to Christmas Day approaching there’s still plenty of time to see what the Legers’ have created. It’s certainly worth taking in.

The lights come on at around 5 p.m. and stay lit for six hours until 11 p.m.
But once the New Year rolls around, Léger takes it all down and packs every-thing away until next November when he will do it all again.

“Once Jan. 2 arrives, I start putting everything away until next Christmas,” says Léger. “I know that we’ve enjoyed the lights and happy that a lot of other people have as well.”

What many people don’t realize is that Rachelle often puts an equal amount of work on the interior of the house as Gilles does on the outside.

Unfortunately, she’s had to tone things down this year due to health issues, but she’s not letting her current condition impact her Christmas spirit.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

 

   

 


Posted Jan. 12



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