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A family tradition in lights

The Willmar family (from left, Adrian Kautz, Hala Willmar, Scott Willmar, Anthony Kautz) poses in front of their Woodbury home, decked out in Christmas lights.1 / 3
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Some people may look at it as a lot of effort resulting in spiked electricity bills.

But Scott Willmar considers his elaborate Christmas lights display a family tradition.

The Woodbury resident has been a contestant (and a past winner a few times over) in the community's "Holiday Lights" contest for the last seven years. As a result, Willmar said he gets hundreds of visitors - mostly in vehicles -- who stop to admire the display every December.

"We've never counted, but on the weekends it's fun to see the steady stream of cars drive by and stop to look," Willmar said.

The lights display located on the 2900 block of Meadowbrook Drive (you can't miss it coming from Lake Road) wraps around about two-thirds of the Willmars' corner lot and includes such highlights as a life-sized Santa Claus in a hot air balloon, a "Christmas Countdown" clock and an illuminated Grinch above the front door.

Several holiday-themed lawn decorations scattered among the many twinkling lights are all part of the fun, said Willmar, who discovered his passion for holiday lights displays while growing up in Maplewood.

"My father used to put up a huge display for years and years," he recalled. "And then one year he just said, 'I've had enough.'"

Willmar said he and his two brothers divvied up their father's stock of Christmas lights and set out to begin their own seasonal displays.

But it didn't take long before the brothers realized only one of them was truly interested in carrying on their father's tradition.

"I ended up inheriting everything," Willmar said proudly. "And we've been adding to the collection ever since."

The collection includes everything you see on display outside the home, and much, much more in storage. And for good reason.

Willmar said there has not been a year when the family display, entitled "Santa's Playland," did not catch the eye of vandals. So he has doubles of every item.

"It's usually just one or two things every year," Willmar said of the vandalism. "But as soon as my wife or I find out about it we replace (the damaged item) within the half hour."

Willmar said he also benefits from a caring crop of neighbors who keep a look out for any sign of mischief.

"We've got a pretty vigilant group," he said.

Two months of Christmas

An obvious question is, How much work does it take to put up all of those lights and lawn decorations?

Willmar, his wife Hala, and their nephew and niece Anthony and Adrian Kautz begin working on the display the day after Halloween.

"It's about a two-week process," he said.

The women in the household draw up the "blueprint" of how the lights will be arranged, and the men are the muscle of the operation.

"They put us to work," Willmar kidded.

Toys for Tots

Willmar said for the last several years he's put out a "Toys for Tots" bin to collect donations for the organization from appreciative fans of his display, with good results.

This year the display has generated more than 300 toys for the organization.

"I think the lights get people in the holiday spirit and then they want to pass that on," he said. "That's why we like doing it."

For a list of all the homes entered into "Woodbury's Holiday Lights" contest, go to