Let there be Christmas lights! Redding-area homes shine for the holidays
Discover the highlights of this year’s Christmas lights.
Jessica Skropanic and Jim Schultz, Redding Record Searchlight
A long-standing holiday tradition that is absent this Christmas season has been greatly missed by Redding.
Partygoers strolling through neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights weren’t able to take advantage of last year’s top spot in the Shasta Association of Realtors competition as the popular drive-in destination was destroyed by the Carr fire.
Take heart – the Christmas spirit lives on as the family behind the dazzling array of lights, garden decorations and late night Santa Claus appearances hope to bring the show back to life in time for next Christmas.
Known as the Christmas House at 3085 Harlan Drive, the residence of Matt Schjoth and Kim Stevens is no more. All that’s left standing on the empty lot is a curbside pine tree with strings of dangling, melting lights and faded ornaments from last Christmas.
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“I miss it this year,” Stevens said, noting how all the decorations were destroyed when Carr’s fire roared through the west Redding neighborhood, leveling their home, garage and two storage sheds.
“There were tons of stuff,” she said. “All the trees, all the lights, all the figurines, all the photo props. Everything burned.”
This would have been the 12th year for the Christmas House. Each year, the couple put together their version of the North Pole and turned their garage into Santa’s haunt with hot chocolate and cookies.
Stevens’ husband, Matt, said the annual exhibit was his whole vision. Over the years, she arranged and used her carpentry skills to build the Christmas figures while her father, James Stevens, 76, played Santa Claus.
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The display had a carousel, ferris wheel, train and polar bear exhibit among other Christmas touches. Guests could pose for photos with Frosty the snowman and an elf.
Shortly after the fire, Stevens said Dr. Norman Verhoog’s family, who are former neighbors, put up a sign on the metal door of the house that read, “Santa We Still Believe” on a background of red bricks under a crown with an ornament.
“It was amazing,” Stevens said.
The couple, owners of MDR Automotive on Westside Road, were tenants. She said the owners had not decided to build a new house at the Harlan Drive address.
“If they have to rebuild, we’d love to go back,” Stevens said.
The couple bought a fifth wheel and lived in it at their parents’ house in Cottonwood.
“This year is a little too early (for a posting),” Stevens said.
“Wherever we are next year, we will put (the Christmas exhibit) back and join the contest,” Stevens said.
The couple started a GoFundMe account hoping to raise enough donations to replace their lights, ornaments and at least some of the 75 artificial Christmas trees they had.
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As of Friday, they had raised $1,420 from 36 people over about four months. Two neighboring kids sold lemonade at a stand over the summer and contributed $400. One woman even offered her garage this Christmas.
About 20 comments have been left on the GoFundMe site by donors and supporters, many of whom have visited the Christmas House in the past. One commentator, calling himself Santa Nick Nichols, is from Malaysia and said he was “happy to help another Redding Santa”.
“May God rebuild and make your home more beautiful…more inviting…and more FUN for MANY Christmases to come!” he said.
Some other messages are accompanied by photos of children, and one with a dog, from years past.
“We loved living down the street from (you) guys and seeing the joy you brought to Redding every night!” says Julie Cremata. “We are truly sorry for your loss and send you prayers as you rebuild, and we can’t wait to have your screen back, better than ever!”
“My kids are so sad that they won’t be able to visit Santa and the amazing Christmas display this year. Our hearts and prayers are with you, you are all amazing,” Breanne Watson wrote.
The GoFundMe goal is listed at $50,000, but Stevens said that was a mistake. She said her husband meant $5,000, but he accidentally added an extra zero.
Still, Stevens is also looking to replace her table saw, jigsaw, and painting supplies that she also lost in the fire and needs to build more Christmas figures.
Another very important item that needs to be replaced is James Stevens’ Santa Claus costume, which was another victim of the fire.
James Stevens still had the opportunity to play St. Nick earlier in December at the Redding Library wearing a suit they got by mail order.
“We had to buy one from Amazon. It’s not the same,” Stevens said. “We’re going to do that again too. Mom’s going to sew a new one.”
CONTINUED: Mysterious trail of light confirmed to be a meteor trail, not a satellite launch