If you’ve driven along Hendrickson Road between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day (or thereabouts), you know the house. You can’t miss it.
It’s Tom and Judee Ledford’s home and it is decorated for the season with thousands of Christmas lights. Tens of thousands of lights, in fact, plus dozens of what Judee calls “balloons” — the inflatable snowmen, trains and Santas that also are part of this winter wonderland. If you slow down and turn into the driveway, you’ll also hear the Christmas tunes that are piped throughout the grounds.
The Ledfords accomplish the massive task of setting up and taking down this display every single year, a chore that takes “two weeks” of work, Tom said.
They have help: As usual, their son Jim and his wife, Rima, pitched in through the Thanksgiving holiday. “They worked their little butts off,” Tom said.
“Jim is my Eveready battery. He puts things up and puts things up.”
Of course, Jim is a youth — he’s just 50 years old. Judee is 70 and Tom is 67, but that doesn’t stop them from producing this labor of love each and every year. They’ve been doing it for 42 years now — every year of their marriage — and it just gets bigger and better with time.
“I don’t know how we got started,” Tom said. “We just started. Now they call it the Coulee Dam, ’cause we have so many lights.”
They first started collecting the stuff just for fun and then it began snowballing. Among other benefits, it makes choosing a gift easy for the couple’s children. “They just give us more stuff,” Jim said.
“It’s a good thing we have a good barn to keep it in.”
The barn is part of the charm of the display. It’s 125 years old, Jim said. “It’s one of the original barns.”
Everyone is welcome to drive into the driveway at 820 W. Hendrickson Road. “There’s plenty of room to turn around,” said Jim.
“Otherwise you won’t hear the music,” said Judee.
What you see is just half of the couple’s Christmas effort. Inside their rambling home they have several ceramic Christmas villages, dozens of mechanical Christmas toys (“I still have two hours of batteries to put in,” Tom recently said), and a large Christmas tree so drenched in ornaments it’s hard to see the green stuff.
The tree skirt has a ribbon with the signatures of friends who drop by at Christmastime. The first one is filled, so Judee has created others — she has yards and yards of signatures for the skirt.
That’s just one of the traditions of this traditional celebration.
They also have stories to tell, including one of Tom’s favorites.
About a decade ago the baby Jesus was pulled from his manger by high winds and was lost. So Tom replaced him, quickly, with a used doll from a local thrift store. A little girl who visited noticed the baby’s feet were dirty.
“I told her every night after dark he would go play in the field next door with the cows,” Tom said.
Two years later, she returned. “She said, ‘His feet are still dirty.’”
Tom fully expects that little girl — now a teenager — will return again this year.
One year a family came by before the lights were fully set up. One of the men was ill with cancer, so Tom asked him to come back in a week, with the promise that the display would be well worth it.
When they showed up again, Tom asked the fellow if he’d like a little drink. The man was slightly taken aback.
“Hey, it’s not gonna kill you,” Tom told him.
“So we had a coupla nips.”
The couple lived in Hayward, Calif., for many years, until Tom retired from his job as a butcher at Safeway. After their 1998 move to Sequim, he worked for a few years at QFC but now he’s done — mostly. Every Christmas he’s still got a job to do.
One recent year a friend of Judee’s, one of the staff at Virginia Mason Clinic, called to say she’d seen Tom up on a ladder hanging lights. “I thought your husband would be visiting us,” she said.
“No, he’s very careful,” Judee said.
Tom agrees, noting the star of Bethlehem now hangs about 10 feet lower in the sky.
That’s one change. The other is a move to add more LED Christmas lights. “That’ll help lower the electric bill,” Tom said with a smile.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.