NISSWA, Minn. — In a year full of hardships and uncertainty, perhaps people could use a healthy dose of Christmas spirit this season.
Those who travel down Poplar Avenue in Nisswa, Minn., are likely to get it, courtesy of Deborah Best and Darel Murphy.
The two have a penchant for going all out with Christmas lights and decorations at their home, but this year’s outing far surpasses anything they have done before, with more than 23,000 bulbs illuminated in the evenings. That is an increase of roughly 8,000 bulbs from the 2019 Christmas season.
“Everybody is stressed out with COVID,” Murphy said. “Every time I look at light displays — not just ours — and you are outside and it’s peaceful and quiet with a brilliant display, it is a very peaceful thing on the mind, for me anyways.”
Murphy — who uses the process of setting up lights as a way of getting into the spirit of Christmas — has set up several extravagant light displays in his adult life, including one in Coon Rapids that made the evening news.
“It’s just like an artist when they paint a picture,” Murphy said. “At the end, they get to see their accomplishment and enjoy it.”
When he moved in with Best, she jumped at the chance to decorate her home in elaborate ways.
“I like just going out and looking at lights,” Best said. “Since we enjoy putting them out, why not let others enjoy it?”
Murphy said it took roughly three full weekends for the two of them to complete setting up their lights, but for them, it is time well spent.
"Even on those days when it was really, really cold, we had a heater in the garage we had to keep warming up with, but we still had fun doing it. It's a good 'together' project."
— Deborah Best
“We just enjoy working together and being outside,” Best said. “Even on those days when it was really, really cold, we had a heater in the garage we had to keep warming up with, but we still had fun doing it. It’s a good ‘together’ project.”
Murphy said they strictly use LED bulbs and keep everything on timers, which helps keep the power bill from increasing too much.
They always turn on their lights during the City of Lights event in Nisswa the day after Thanksgiving, and continue to show their display a week or two into January, running every night from 5 to 11 p.m.
On that first night, with plenty of people out trying to enjoy light displays, the house can cause a bit of a traffic jam. However, it is worth it for them to provide passersby with some “feel-good moments.”
“Someone said, ‘You don’t know how amazing that was,’ and that it helped them at that time and cheered them up,” Best said. “For me and for Darel, that’s enough to keep going, even if it helps just one person to enjoy themselves, especially this year.”
The two said they are looking to go even bigger for next year’s display, but what exactly is on display will have to wait until City of Lights 2021.
“We have already had discussions about what to do next year,” Murphy said. “Usually when the time comes, we end up adding even more than what we’ve discussed.”