An array of Christmas lights brighten up the night outside the home of Gary Hale in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

An array of Christmas lights brighten up the night outside the home of Gary Hale in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A season for lights

Residents brighten up the night with elaborate Christmas decorations

Christmas lights are a recognizable element of the holiday iconography, and for some, they represent months of work to put on a display that wows children and lights up the night. In Soldotna and Nikiski, homeowners are putting on complex shows in their front yards for the benefit of passersby.

Gary Hale has a large display in his yard, on Soldotna’s South Heinrich Street off Redoubt Avenue. A sign in the yard directs visitors to tune their radios to 98.3 FM, where Christmas tunes can be heard — the lights synchronized in complex displays to the music. On Wednesday evening, a small line could be seen passing down the road to see the lights. Children leaned out of the windows of their car wondering aloud at the display in front of them.

On Friday, Hale said he’s been decorating his home for the holidays for around 35 years. The addition of the music is a little more recent, first deployed around eight years ago.

Usually, he said, he starts decorating weeks before Thanksgiving, putting a little out each day. He said during the off-season everything is stored in a “Christmas shed” that’s entirely filled. He conceded that this year he got a bit of a late start, in part because of the less-than-accommodating weather conditions.

The lights at Hale’s home run from around 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night through Dec. 30. He said they’ll run them later, until around midnight, on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

For Hale, the lights are a part of the Christmas season. He said he’s happy to see people driving by, happy to be a part of their festivities. Despite the increase in traffic, he said his neighbors, too, “actually love it.” He described a year where he had gone to the Lower 48 to visit family for Christmas and received “call after call” from people worried about the missing lights.

Hale said decorating for Christmas is a tradition, something he’s done since he was young and helped his father to decorate. He also said that he’s seen the decline in decorations around the community.

“It’s a shame,” he said, pointing to the prices of decorations and electricity as being potentially “overwhelming.”

“Few people are able to do what I do,” he said.

When the lights are running, Hale said he can see a difference of around $100 per month in his electricity bill. He said over the years people have left tips to help pay for the electricity — last year he set out a box for donations to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

There used to be contests put on by the local governments or by Homer Electric Association, with prizes that could offset costs, but he said that with fewer contestants, those have ceased to exist.

“It’s fun to look at people driving by,” Hale said. “Give them something to connect with Christmas.”

Hale’s decorations can be found on South Heinrichs Street off West Redoubt Avenue. The address produces an error in Google Maps, but the lights can guide the way from a significant distance.

Other decorations can be found in Nikiski. The “Allemania Christmas Light Show” at 47495 Holt Lamplight Road, similarly runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 30. Their lights are also synchronized to music, broadcast at 99.5 FM.

Robin and Jim Allemann told the Clarion in 2021 that their show is like a piece of art that they’ve worked to perfect over years — the music and lights are programmed by Robin, while Jim builds the displays. Jim said at the time that his favorite part of putting on the show was seeing how excited children get when they see it.

Information about Hale’s show has been posted to multiple community groups on Facebook by Sharon Hale. More information about the Allemann’s show can be found at “The Allemania Christmas Light Show” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

An array of Christmas lights brighten up the night outside the home of Gary Hale in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

An array of Christmas lights brighten up the night outside the home of Gary Hale in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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