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Holiday lights bring warmth, cheer

It started out as a few strings of lights — the kind everyone puts up for Christmas. Over the years, it’s grown.

And it’s still growing.

Joe and Stephani Cavender have lived in their 332nd Place home for 25 years this New Year’s Eve. It’s only been within the past six years, however, that they began stringing the lights and building the large, unique displays that people line their street to view.

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation had a lot to do with it,” Stephani said from her living room, which also is decked out for the season.

“It kind of started with some stuff on the second story and it evolved from there,” Joe said. “Now, it’s a year-long project.”

Over the years, Joe’s installed a Mount Rainier display on the roof along with some UFOs. He got the inspiration in Eatonville, when he saw a sign advertising a UFO convention. A Space Needle replica stands in the yard because it seemed appropriate.

Several resident reindeer, which occupy the spaces near the trees, were joined by a few more this year, along with a new Santa Claus on the roof and some angels near an upper story window.

Next year, Joe plans to add a Seattle skyline ... “And whatever else he happens to think of,” Stephani said.

As for the number of lights, Joe said he lost track after 10,000.

Had the energy crisis continued, the Cavenders might have thought twice about doing the display. But, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, they decided they would do the Christmas display again this year.

They consider the annual display their contribution to the season. Friends, neighbors and perfect strangers anticipate the day when the Cavenders flip the switch. People look forward to it, they said.

Holidays are about “families and feeling good about yourself and everyone else and the world. And that’s why I think the lights are so important,” Stephani said.

“I’ll be out in the yard working on something and people will be driving by or on a walk and they’ll stop and say, ‘When are you lighting up?’

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. It’s worth it because people enjoy it.”

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