SALEM - Bob and Linda Sebo give all the credit for their popular Quaker Lane Christmas light display to their groundskeeper Jim Scullion and his landscaping crew.
The Sebos received the inaugural Professionally Decorated Home Award Monday from the Salem Beautification Committee, but Bob said it's not really a commercial effort but the work of Scullion and his crew members who care for the grounds year round.
Jim designs the layout and directs the installation of the light display every year, with the work to put up the lights beginning Sept. 15. The lights come on the night before Thanksgiving and remain on display through New Year's Day.
"Each year we add a few more poinsettias, a few more candy canes and a few more Christmas boxes," Bob said.
The work takes a couple of months, starting with the lights in the trees and then continuing with the standing displays the last week in October. An electrician comes every year to measure the voltage going out on each line, with everything tied to the house.
"It's a very thought-out process," Bob said.
The crew monitors the lights daily to check if any lights are out and need replaced. They used to have more in-ground displays in the back yard behind the house, but they were harder to see so they loaded up the front areas. They haven't had a lot of damage over the years from the weather.
The job of taking down the lights and displays begins Jan. 2, with each string of lights checked before being packed away for next year and placed in storage. Bob explained that they leave the lights on the big tree year-round, but sometimes have to redo the lights when the tree grows. They changed over to LEDs, with less lights on the tree and less cost, but the lights seem even brighter than before.
For anyone who likes to drive around looking at Christmas lights, the home has become a must-see destination, not just for area residents, but for people who travel from the areas of Akron, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The large tree covered in lights has become a beacon, along with the 17-foot tall waving Santa Claus, a favorite of both Bob and Linda.
Families have even used the gate of the Sebo driveway as a backdrop for family portraits, with Linda recalling coming home to see a family of about 20 people posing for photos. They've even had to wait in line to get in their own driveway as cars slowly move past the displays which stretch the length of the property.
"For us it's become a way of life," Bob said.
What they enjoy and what's fun for them are the many cards, letters, emails and phone calls they receive from visitors who just want to say thank you for the lights and decorations. Bob found a note stuffed in their box addressed to the "light man" from a young boy saying how much his family loved the lights.
He said he and Linda appreciate that the Salem Beautification Committee is recognizing all the people who have taken special efforts to put up Christmas lights during the holiday season, noting that more people are participating.
The committee recognized a home in each of the four wards of the city, one in Perry Township and one professionally decorated home. Other winners included: Kim Halter, 1374 Eastview Drive, for Ward 1; Jean Reed, 247 Sharp Ave., for Ward 2; Lydia Gross, 1009 E. Ninth St., for Ward 3; Rich and Terri Schweitzer, 217 Fair Ave., for Ward 4; and David and Donna Shanley, 1556 N. Lincoln Ave., for Perry Township.
Karen Carter, co-chairman of the committee, said they want the Sebos to know how much people in and around Salem appreciate the gift of the lights.
"My daughters and their families make it a priority to see each year when they arrive for the Christmas holiday," she said.
The lights are on from 5 p.m. to midnight every night and all day on Christmas Day and New Year's Day starting the night before Thanksgiving and continuing through Jan. 1. The electric bill is about 3 1/2 to 4 times what it normally is for December.
"I'm probably the only guy in town who gets a thank-you note from Ohio Edison," Bob said with a chuckle.
The inside of their home is professionally decorated for the holidays by Something New Florist in Canfield, which also puts up the live greenery around the front door. Linda said the greenery is purchased through a fundraiser by the Salem Youth Chorus, which is based in Salem and involves teens from the tri-county area.