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Lights lovers: Crazy for Christmas lights in McCleary

Orville Russell doesn’t remember the exact date he started putting Christmas lights up on his home in McCleary, but he remembers a moment that happened some years back where a little boy and his dad pulled up in a truck in front of the house.

“The boy stuck his head out and just yelled, ‘Dad! Dad! I know where the North Pole is and it’s right there!’” Russell says with a smile. “And, I tell you, no joke, that little boy is a father himself now and he brought his own son here last year and we just kept talking for hours and hours.”

Russell says he’s been doing lights now for going on 25 years. He’s got thousands of lights and dozens of puffy, inflatable creations. There’s Santa petting Rudolph, of course. There’s polar bears and penguins and all sorts of candy canes.

The place is so bright that the house can be seen a couple of blocks down the dark Lynch Road in McCleary. The exact address is 31 Lynch Road, McCleary and the lights go on as soon as it gets dark.

And all of the lights are set to its own limited broadcast radio frequency at 107.9 FM. Russell says for every minute of radio time, it’s taken him about an hour of programming to do it. He has multiple controllers to configure each show, which lasts about half an hour.

There’s not much room to park, but his driveway turns into the house itself and Russell says he doesn’t mind if folks park in his driveway — he’ll ask people to move if he needs to leave.

If the shades are open, he encourages folks to glimpse in at his Christmas tree. Russell’s granddaughter Sydney inspired him and his wife Sandy to decorate the tree in a mardis gras style. Instead of a star, there’s a giant mask on top.

“We have fun doing this, it’s for the community,” Russell says. “We’re very community minded.”

Russell says it costs his family about $800 extra on his power bill to do the lights. He said he did recently switch out many of the lights for new, energy efficient LED bulbs, so he’ll be curious how much his bill will go down. He notes that bills in McCleary, which has its own power utility, are a bit higher than Grays Harbor PUD bills as it is.

“But the blow ups, we have more than 50 of them, and they have a motor that keeps going so that’s probably costly,” Russell said.

Russell says he starts decorating the house in August “and I’m not done yet. I’ve still got a pile of lights in the garage and a bunch more to do.” He says he got a bit behind this year because of a recent trip to Florida to hear his daughter, Brittany Kingery, sing. Kingery is known in local circles for her tropical rock style and moved to Mexico to pursue her music career.

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