DeKalb County families celebrate holiday with sights too unique to miss

December 24, 2018

SYCAMORE – Smoke and Lin Abitt of Sycamore have been creating their own winter wonderland in the 200 block of Alfred Drive for 44 years.

It’s not quite the “250 strands, 100 individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights” level that is Clark W. Griswold’s claim to fame, but the Abitts’ holiday display boasts 3,000 lights in only one of its sections: an archway illuminating the driveway.

The rest of the house’s exterior and yard are intricately detailed, with a Nativity scene at the heart of it all.

Smoke, 80, built 90 percent of the lighted copper display himself, including the archway, the horse and sleigh on the front lawn, the candy canes, trees, train and various holiday greeting signs.

“My daughter was a fairly good artist when she was in high school, and so she drew a horse and sleigh on the garage floor,” Smoke said. “I went and bought quarter-inch copper tubing, and bent that to the shape of the horse and sleigh, and then got an angle iron and put it all in one piece.”

It takes Smoke a little longer to put up the display after

44 years. He briefly entertained the idea of making this year his last go-around for the festive display.

“My wife and daughter said they’re going to hire somebody to do it,” Smoke said, chuckling.

“It’s just a family thing,” Lin said. “I’m so proud of him.”

The inflatable farm

The Davis family in Sycamore also created an annual holiday tradition, which, one could say, holds a little more air.

About 13 inflatable blow-up characters stand in the Davises’ lawn in the 900 block of Townsend Street.

Spider-Man dangles from the roof with Santa piloting an airplane; a dinosaur waves alongside Santa, a snowman, and a red M&M; and an inflatable taco truck is parked along the other side of the lawn. An inflatable carousel and even the three wise men and their camel also are featured.

“Every year, St. Nick brings a new blow-up for the kids,” said self-professed “townie-for-life” Katie Davis, 38. “St. Nick leaves it all blown up in the living room, so [the kids] come down and see it.”

When asked why this tradition started, Davis replied with a laugh. “Because we’re obnoxious,” but then she got serious and said, “so Santa can find our house.”

The Davises’ four children take the tradition seriously, and all identify the dinosaur as their favorite.

The family now has a sign out front that reads “Welcome to the Davis Family Inflatable Farm.”

“It’s exciting for little people,” Davis said. “Whether you believe in Santa or not, it’s the miracle of the season.”

Slowing down

Jacob Groh has 60 Christmas blow molds, and five inflatables adorning his corner lot in the 200 block of West Hill Street in Genoa.

This is the first year the Groh family – Jacob, 33; his wife Kira, 31, and children ages 3, 6, 7, 10 and 11 – has owned their home, and they want to ensure their display is as grand as their appreciation for it.

“My uncle has a really big collection [of blow molds] in Huntley,” Groh said. “I always remember going over there as a kid, and when we bought a house this past year, it was on like Donkey Kong.”

He said Kira bought him his first blow mold, and he bought the rest, along with too many extension cords to count. Blow molds are traditional Christmas lawn ornaments made of hollowed-out plastic.

What’s his favorite part? Jacob Groh said he enjoys watching other people drive by, slow down and admire the display.

“I like watching the cars drive by and slow down, and take that brief moment and hopefully bring a smile to their face, because I don’t know what kind of day they had,” he said.

Doing it for the kids

The Grohs’ neighbor has been getting in on the holiday fun for almost 30 years. Jim Slater, 63, of the 400 block of Genoa Street in Genoa, spent much of 2018 in the hospital.

In April, he had back surgery, during which he had vertebrae in his spine cut out. In July, he had a stroke.

One of his first thoughts recently was, “How am I going to get on the roof to put up Christmas lights this year?”

Slater, who’s been semi-retired and married to his wife, Patricia, for 39 years, said he likes to keep busy.

“Two weeks ago, I finally decided to start with the

25 lights up on my roof,” Jim Slater said.

He went on the roof while his wife and twin sister were gone, and then put up a little more each day.

“You’ve got to do it for the kids,” said Jim Slater, who also enjoys the local fans who count on his lights every year.

When his wife asked how the lights on the roof got up, he kept it coy.

“Well, you know how Santa got up there with the reindeer ...” he said, trailing off. “It’s a true Christmas story.”

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