When she was a child, Kristy Caswell’s family would load up their pajama-clad youngsters in the van and head toward Christmas Lane near Honey Creek State Park.
For years, the cluster of mobile homes and lake cabins just off the Grand Lake shoreline magically transformed into Christmas Lane every year.
“Back in the day, they were really ahead of the curve when it came to Christmas lights and motorized decorations and displays,” Caswell said.
During the Christmas season, even if snow or ice was on ground, hundreds of vehicles would be back to back, slowly twisting through the lane.
Those looking out the vehicles’ windows marveled at the traditional Christmas displays, were dazzled by thousands of multicolored lights flashing to Christmas songs, and often could spot a doe nibbling on a string of popcorn hung on an outside evergreen.
“As a kid growing up in Grove, I, along with many others, have such a fond memory of riding through Christmas Lane,” Caswell said, adding it was said when the lane was no longer part of her annual festivities.
Those memories prompted Caswell to set up her own Christmas Lane in 2010.
“Now, I’m the house people look forward to visiting each year as their tradition,” Caswell said.
In the past, some families would take their child’s Christmas photograph using Caswell’s decorated home as a backdrop.
“It makes me happy knowing that so many people look forward to seeing my decorations each year,” she said.
After years of people stopping by to take photographs of her elaborate outdoor Christmas displays, Caswell decided to hold an open house, invite Santa Claus and pass out cookies, hot cocoa and eggnog.
About 75 people toured Caswell’s home earlier this month and helped her collect 24 new, unwrapped toys that will be donated to children in the area whose families are struggling financially this Christmas season.
A former Grove High School principal donned the Santa Claus suit for the open house.
“Rodney Dillinger and I go way back,” Caswell said, referring to Santa Claus.
Caswell comes from a long line of Grove Public Schools educators.
“He said that I do so much for others around the holidays that he wanted to help out and give back,” Caswell said. “I was so lucky to have him come for a visit.”
Desiree Bolin, who toured the home, said Caswell’s house has the ability to connect people who are familiar with Christmas Lane and young families that are wanting to start their own traditions.
“The house is the most decorated building in Grove,” Bolin said.
Neighbor Dena Tolle weighed in on Caswell’s Christmas decorations.
“The children love it almost as much as I do,” she said.
With the help of her daughter, Kaylee; boyfriend, John Van Dyke; brother, JD Huggins; and mother, Donna Helm, the group hung 21,000 outside lights. The inside of Caswell’s home is decorated with 12 themed Christmas trees and 2,000 lights.
“Most years I put up all the Christmas lights and decorations myself,” Caswell said. “I just love Christmas lights, always have.
“The sparkle and glow just bring out the kid in me.”
The cost to run all those lights raises Caswell’s electric bill an extra $30 to $40 for her December electric bill.
“All my lights are LED and are set up on timers, which makes a big difference,” Caswell said.
After the last guest left and Caswell was putting the last paper cup in the trash, she thought about the evening where she caught up with old friends and met new friends.
“It was a great time and so very worth the effort put into it all,” Caswell said.
Those were priceless and precious memories just like looking at lights at Christmas Lane, she said.