Lighting the way for the Christmas Spirit

For the past 31 years, the Marquette Board of Light and Power has been challenging the community to put out their best and brightest Christmas display. This year was especially difficult with arctic blasts of freezing rain coming and going.

But, as Rick Tarsitano explains, that didn’t stop one family from creating their very own winter wonderland.

There’s something about Christmas decorations that brings out the kid in all of us.

“I think it allows people to see what great people we have here in our community,” noted Yvonne Whitman, the Head Judge for the BLP. “They are so intent on sending, basically, a life-sized Christmas Card to the community with the decorations and lights…” and holiday music beaming from nearly every corner of the city.

This year’s award winners span the holiday spectrum.

There are classical motiffs that harken back to Christmases of old; contemporary arrangements that feature some of the more unique frosty favorites like playful polar bears and Jedis; but when you pull up to 1313 N. Vandenboom in Trowbridge Park, it’s clear to see that one house truly takes the cake. It may even be the best set of decorations this side of the Mighty Mac, which happens to be their newest addition.

“Oh my goodness! The judges called it the display that ate Trowbridge Park,” Whitman laughed. “It is just an amazing display. But, I think what really makes that display special is the people who built it.”

Meet John Carter.

John, his wife Stacey, and their two daughters have been transforming their front yard into a real life winter wonderland for the past four years.

“We all work together. We get the big areas, and then we fill in from there. We’ll have friends come over and hoist the flying deer in the trees,” said Carter, a retired Air Force Officer. “It’s a family event.”

And they’ve extended the branches of their family tree to include the whole community; greeting each guest with a candy cane, guided tour, and family photo.

In order to bring the spectacle to life, the Carters start to set the scene the first day of October.

“We don’t turn anything on until 1 December, unless we’re working out there in the dark. Then, I’ll turn a section on so we can see what we’re doing,” Carter added. “As for the number of lights – I have no idea.”

But, the endless lights lead to countless “thank you’s” from strangers far and wide.

The Carters’ two daughters, Samantha and Caitlin, embody their family’s selflessness and put the true meaning of Christmas in perspective.

“For me, it’s the real little kids and the senior citizens because they really appreciate it. They really think it’s just magic,” remarked Samantha, a 16-year-old High School Student. “I love to see them really happy. Even when I go on the buses or deliver candy canes, they always really appreciate it and they’re very thankful for it.

Even though it may look like a lavish Christmas village, it’s roots have humble beginnings.

“We were living in a rental community and if you decorated your house for the Christmas season, you actually got money off your rent,” explained John’s wife Stacey. “That’s how John started – by putting out four or five strings of lights and I think one deer. And then it snowballed from there.”

As this year’s champion of champions, the Carters will take home a cash prize that just about covers the cost of the lights, and a Santa trophy for good measure.

The only problem – figuring out where to put it.