Urbana’s biggest holiday light display to go dark this year -- Gazette.Net


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One of Urbana’s most popular holiday attractions in December is the Yaglenski Family Dancing Holiday Light Spectacular — a home display of lights of Griswold-like proportions.

But this year, Clendenin Way will be a little darker than usual.

John Yaglenski likened it to the film “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” in which Santa Claus decides to take a year off from delivering presents.

“That’s how I felt,” said Yaglenski, whose Urbana home is normally a major attraction in the month of December. “When Santa wakes up and says I need a year off, that’s kind of where we [are].”

The Yaglenski family, which has created their annual holiday light display each year since moving to Urbana in 1999, has slowly increased its size and technical prowess, Yaglenski said.

About five years ago, the display was expanded to put the light display to music, which visitors could hear by tuning their car radios to a certain station. But he said the growing display — the family purchases at least a few new items each year to expand it — was beginning to be a burden.

“Family-wise we felt like we need a year to focus on our family,” he said. “And honestly, the economy absolutely stinks. It’s a financial drain even though we have most of what we put up there.”

He said the display typically costs about $3,000 to $4,000 a year, including the purchase of new items, repair of old items and their electric bill, which spikes to about $500 in December.

In addition to the financial costs, setting up and programming the display takes about 100 hours, as well as plenty of time for continual maintenance and upkeep, Yaglenski said.

Last year also caused additional headaches when part of the display was damaged by vandals. A light set depicting a dog and a dog house was stolen. Even though it was later returned, Yaglenski said it made him constantly worry about the display.

“For the last half of December I was averaging four hours of sleep a night,” he said. “You’re sleeping with one eye open.”

And while the house will be less extravagantly lighted this year, Yaglenski said he expects to return to his traditional decorations in the 2013 holiday season.

“This is just a break,” he said. “This is not a ‘We’re canceling forever.’ We just said if we stop for one year we’ll go back to doing what we normally do.”

He said he’s hoping the break will allow for a more relaxed holiday season with family and friends.

“You want to connect with your family, you want to connect with your friends — it’s become harder and harder to do that,” he said.

And while the display inevitably brought out extra traffic to the neighborhood, at least a few neighbors said they would be disappointed not to see the lights.

Charles Drummond, who’s lived across the street from the Yaglenskis for about seven years, said Tuesday that he was surprised to hear it wouldn’t be happening this season.

“The only thing it brings is increased traffic, but at the holidays it’s here anyway,” he said. “I like to see him working hard out there.”

Next-door neighbor Shane Harper said he wasn’t surprised to hear the display wouldn’t be put up this year after last year’s vandalism, but that he would miss it.

“Thousands of people come by to see it,” he said. “They’ll be heartbroken. It’s going to be missed big time.”

Yaglenski said the biggest thing he’d miss would be the children’s letters to Santa Claus. The family placed a box outside for children to place their letters and made sure that each letter with a return address received a letter from Santa.

“That I’m going to miss,” he said. “We always liked seeing those, and that kind of put the season in perspective.”

tlaino@gazette.net