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In search of lights

Walking through Marcia Hales' light display on Park Point was one of the highlights of reporter Teri Cadeau's weekend. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 2
Shannon Turinetti pats the head of a penguin in Marcia Hales' light display. Legend has it, according to the sign, if you make a wish while you pat the penguin's head, your wish will come true. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 2

I always have a hard time dealing with the darkness that comes with December.

It is, physically speaking, one of the darkest months of the year, with an average of a little more than eight and a half hours of daylight. It hosts the darkest day, the winter solstice, Dec. 21. And there's just something inherently depressing about walking outside at 4 p.m. and noticing it's dark enough for the streetlights to turn on.

To battle the December darkness and my lack of holiday spirit, I went hunting for light last weekend.

First I took my annual, traditional trip to Bentleyville on Friday. It was freezing, which kept the crowds down a bit from the usual weekend amount. I bundled up and made my way along the path, keeping an eye out for every fire pit possible. Despite the cold, I felt pretty warm internally - though that may have been mostly due to the hot chocolate.

One of the displays, the elves working on toys, reminded me of Christmas drives my family took when I was a child. Growing up in Gilbert, we'd often bundle up and drive to Virginia to see the light display in Olcott Park. My grandmother didn't live far from the park, so we'd drive through on our way back to her apartment. My favorite display was a moving Jack-in-the-box that appeared to pop out of the box.

Bentleyville was a brisk moment of bright light. It warmed my heart, but it also windburned my face. So on Sunday, I decided to look for light in a few other locations.

I remembered receiving a press release a few weeks earlier about the Twin Ports Lighting Challenge. I dug through my email and found the website and scrolled through the list of addresses. I messaged my frequent adventuring partner, Shannon, to see if she'd be willing to go dashing in the snow to see some spectacular lights. She agreed and owned an all-wheel drive vehicle — we were all set.

We soon learned that although it starts getting dark by about 4 p.m., most people don't turn on their light displays until after 5 p.m. After visiting several houses and finding ourselves disappointed by the lack of light, we decided to switch gears. Earlier that week, I read about Marcia Hales' light display in Park Point. Maybe it'd be worth the drive? Shannon agreed and we headed down the hill.

As we drove along the point, I kept my eyes peeled for white and green lights. We drove a little bit past where the GPS led us, only to see the stunning display in the rearview mirror. Shannon made a U-turn and we parked in the driveway.

We were stunned by the simple but beautiful displays. At the entrance, we rubbed the penguin's head for good luck. We walked down to the lake and enjoyed the twinkle lights. We walked into the warming house for a cup of hot apple cider, and I marveled at the tiny Dickensville village display. I've always had a soft spot for tiny town displays. It's a dream to create one of my own someday when I have the space.

Thoroughly enchanted by Hales' display, we decided to revisit the Piedmont area to see if the houses in the challenge had flipped their switches. They had. We marveled at the display on West 15th Street, then checked out the musically synced display on Exhibition Drive. Outside the house, there's a large sign which directs visitors to tune their radio stations to 98.3 FM to hear the holiday music to which the lights are choreographed. We stayed for three songs. Our favorite was the show set to music from "The Polar Express."

As Shannon dropped me off that night, I found I didn't mind the darkness so much. I started to see the bright side of 16 hours of darkness — it left a lot of room for tiny bright lights.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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