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Christmas lights enthusiast carries on grandfather's tradition

Chuck and Amy Forkner, along with their children, Brandon, 14, and Alexa, 11, pose in front of their Christmas lights display outside their home on the 8500 block of Savanna Oaks Lane. Staff photo by Hank Long.1 / 3
Churck Forkner said he purchases many of his Christmas display decorations from friends he has met over the years who share his enthusiasm for holiday lights. Staff photo by Hank Long.2 / 3
Chuck Forkner has displayed his grandfather's old Christmas cutouts since 2002. He posts a tribute near the display to inform admirers. Staff photo by Hank Long.3 / 3

It started as a hobby. A way to honor his late grandfather's holiday spirit.

But it didn't take long before Chuck Forkner was hearing the "Clark Griswold" comparisons from admirers of his Christmas lights display in front of his home on the 8500 block of Savanna Oaks Lane.

"I get that a lot, but I really don't do it to be the best. I do it because I thoroughly enjoy it."

So much so that the Forkner family display has received several awards from over the year in the Holiday Lights contest. This is the first year in some time that neither the city nor the Woodbury Days Council has sponsored a holiday lights contest, but that didn't stop Forkner from putting up his display for the public to enjoy.

"I actually didn't even know there wasn't a contest until after we put the lights up Forkner said. "But it's become a tradition that we do it regardless of any awards we win," although the awards have been almost a yearly occurrence for the display.

The Forkners string up their lights in festive fashion right around Halloween. Several hundred extension cords and thousands of lights are arranged on the house, the deck and throughout the yard to create a display that wife Amy said borders a bit on the crazy side, but something she tolerates and has come to embrace.

"But hey, he could be spending his money on gambling or drinking," she kidded. "He doesn't do that. He spends it on Christmas cheer."

It's that Christmas cheer that Forkner, originally from Indiana, said he hopes his display passes onto to the hundreds of onlookers who come to see his lights every year he puts them up (with the help of the wife and kids, of course).

"They mostly help me plug them in and take them down," Forkner, a postal carrier said. "But they are very supportive of my spirited endeavor."

The spirited endeavor was launched in 2001 when Forkner and his siblings recovered some long lost, handmade Christmas-themed cutouts that his grandfather displayed on his farm for many years when Forkner was a child.

"I remember pulling up to my grandparents farmhouse in rural Indiana and you could see these wonderful cutouts and decorations from a mile away. They were really creative, neat decorations. And after he died we kind of lost track of them."

After his grandmother died in 2001, Forkner and his family found that she never threw out the Christmas cutouts. They were stored in the back of the family barn, and although a little dusty, fully intact.

"It was like a piece of our childhood came back," Forkner said. "My brother and I decided to clean them up a bit and put them up at our homes during Christmas time.

For the last several years, the Forkner household has prominently and proudly displayed the cutouts, which they light up along with a sign that pays tribute to his grandparents Lester and Mary Forkner and their holiday spirit.

"It's just a neat piece of family history we like to share," Forkner said. "My kids have embraced it and you have those fond memories that get a chance to live on through something he took a lot of pride in, his Christmas spirit."