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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

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(Updated 9:30 p.m., Dec.22)
Tripping the (Christmas) lights fantastic in Orléans

By Fred Sherwin
The Orléans Star

Taffy Lane resident Peter Abercrombie dons his “light suit” every year to welcome visitors to the crescent famously known for its outdoor light display.. Fred Sherwin/Photoo

The east end of Ottawa is a Christmas light enthusiasts paradise. Drive down any street in Convent Glen, Chapel Hill, Fallingbrook or Queenswood Heights, and the night sky is aglow with thousands of brightly coloured lights and assorted decorations.

On a street where most of the home-owners go out of their way to provide a good show for the people driving by, Taffy Lane resident Peter Abercrombie has taken the art of Christmas decorating to an entirely different level.

Among the hundreds of items that are on display in his front yard are two Nutcracker soldiers measuring exactly six feet tall (as stipulated in “Babes in Toyland”), a giant wood cutout of Frosty the Snowman, a large cutout of the Grinch, a flying squirrel inspired by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, assorted Disney characters and over 12,000 lights all programmed through his computer.

During the holiday season Abercrombie can often be seen standing in his driveway wearing a miniature light festooned suit and waving at passing motorists with his Mickey Mouse gloves.

Abercrombie first started decorating his house after returning from a French language course in Quebec in 1984. As part of the training program, the students had to work on various projects together. Their first assignment was to decorate a house for Hallowe’en. The group ended up doing such a great job they decided to do the same at Christmas. When the course ended Abercrombie took some of the decorations home and used them on his house.

Thirty-three years later Abercrombie’s house is arguably the most photographed house in Orléans.

Don Giroux started getting into the house decorating spirit when he was still a teenager.

“My father was like everybody else. He used to hang a few strings of lights on the front garage. Then when I took over from him I did the rest of the house and the fence,” recalls Giroux whose two-storey home on Cholette Crescent in Convent Glen South has attracted Christmas light enthusiasts for more than 35 years.

The Giroux home on Cholette Crescent is located just north of St. Joseph Blvd. at the end of St. Jean Street. File photo

When he first bought the house in 1982 it was a bungalow, which made decorating it fairly easy, but through the passage of time he kept adding more and more lights and eventually he renovated the place and added a second floor which meant he could add even more decorations.

Today, he has over 120 strings of lights containing 12,000 twinkling bulbs, a half dozen inflatables and other assorted cutouts.

Giroux switched over to LED lights when they first came out which reduced his hydro bill for the month of December by 30 per cent. It’s still several hundred dollars, but that’s a small price to pay for the all the joy it brings Giroux and his family, not to mention the hundreds of sightseers who drive by every year.

Belcourt Boulevard resident Gilles Leger got caught up in the Christmas decoration craze when he bought his first house in Cumberland Village. He started out like most people by hanging a few strings of lights from his eavestrough.

As the years passed by, Leger added more and more lights along with several homemade cutouts.

In the 1990s he moved to Princess Louise Drive in Fallingbrook, where his display grew even larger and started attracting people from across the east end. Then in 2000 he moved to his current residence on Belcourt Blvd., just south of St. Joseph Blvd. where his house is a ‘must see’ attraction for area Christmas decoration enthusiasts.

“I remember the first year my neighbour across the street asked me if I was going to hang any lights and I said, ‘Oh yeah, a few.’ The next day I started hanging lights at six o’clock in the morning and worked to six o’clock at night. Then the day after that I did the same and around noon I saw him come out of his house with his wife and get in the car to go out, and I said to my wife, ‘You wait and see, he’s going to buy more lights.’ And sure enough he came back with all these shopping bags filled with lights and decorations. I just had to laugh,” recalls Leger.

Today, the neighbour’s house, which sits across the street from the Legers, is an attraction in its own right, as is the house beside it.

Asked why he goes through the time and expense every year, Leger barely skips a beat.

“I just love it. The comments I get, you just wouldn’t believe. A couple of years ago the door bell rang at about 10 o’clock at night and it was a woman bringing me a gift. She wanted to thank me for taking the time to decorate the house and said that it reminded her of growing up in Nova Scotia. I hear that type of thing all the time,” says Leger.

That pretty much sums up the motivation of all the Christmas light-o-logists in the east end. So if you get the chance, pile the kids in the car, stop by Tim Horton’s for some hot chocolate and take a tour of the amazing Christmas light displays that can be seen right in our own backyard.

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

 

 

   
   

 




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