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Light up the country

Rural homeowners share their advice on how to make your holiday lighting display more fun and less work.
Cheryl Purol's Michigan farmhouse has been in her family for more than 100 years. She enjoys decorating it in traditional style each holiday season.
Tom Kladzyk, owner of Holiday Lighting, strings lights on Cheryl Purol's spruce tree.
Gary Kiska installs 6,500 lights each year on his barn, house, yard, and other outbuildings around his acreage in Washtenaw County, Michigan.

As the days get shorter and the nights grow longer, hanging holiday lights around your acreage is a great way to combat the dreary landscape of winter. A quick trip to the local hardware store can equip you with all the supplies you need to brighten up your place. Or, you can hire a decorating company to do the work for you. Here's how some rural homeowners make their places sparkle.

Cheryl Purol is a traditionalist when it comes to holiday decorating on her acreage near Manchester, Michigan. "Basically it's lights and garlands," says Cheryl, a high school business teacher. She doesn't do things the hard way. "I don't use live greens. Martha Stewart would never approve of me. I'm a working woman, and I don't have time to go out back and get fresh cuttings."

Cheryl also participates in a neighborhood Christmas Eve tradition of setting out luminaries along a main east-west road by her home. She and her neighbors line both sides of Pleasant Lake Road with candles seated in modified plastic milk jugs lined with sand. The jugs are saved from year to year in a neighbor's barn. On Christmas Eve, fresh long-burning candles are installed. The glowing jugs are spaced 30 feet apart for miles.

Hire it done
Carol had hired lighting contractor Tom Kladzyk to string lights on a large spruce tree in her yard. Hundreds of tiny white lights stay on the tree year round. With a flip of a switch, the spruce comes to life during the holidays.

Kladzyk's business, Holiday Lighting, is part of an industry that has sprung up to fill the demand from homeowners who prefer to hire out the decorating of their yards and buildings. Formerly an aerospace engineer, Kladzyk plans each job with precision.

"When we approach a tree-and it doesn't matter whether it's an evergreen or deciduous-we attempt to create the illusion of the random distribution of lights around and throughout the whole body of the tree. We have to use a certain density of lights to achieve that look. We use more lights than most people would use, but we go through the whole canopy." He uses a manlift and extension pole to place the lights.

Kladzyk works on jobs homeowners prefer to hire out. "We don't get many calls to light up someone's little yew bushes by their house. They want us to do the 40-foot spruce from top to bottom."

Gary Kiska, of Washtenaw County, Michigan, prefers to do the holiday lighting work himself.Every season he lights up the house, yard, and four outbuildings on his acreage. He has advice for homeowners embarking on large lighting projects: "Buy as much as you can immediately after Christmas when merchandise is half price. And put up the lights when it's warm out. You can do a better job when you're not freezing.

"Just have fun with it," says Gary. "Look around your neighborhood to get ideas, and take pictures of other displays."

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