Flying back to Billings on a business trip before Christmas one year, Lenette Kosovich could pick out her house below from the plane window by the blue lights glowing through the December darkness.
Her home at 28 Burlington Ave. is equally as impressive this time of year from ground level, too.
Round the corner onto Burlington from Division Street, and you don’t need a street map to find the 1914 bungalow.
Every Christmas since Kosovich, CEO at the Rimrock Foundation, and Keith Edgerton, a history professor at Montana State University Billings, moved into the house 2-1/2 years ago, Edgerton has been decking the outside of the house with blue lights.
“He’s obsessed by blue,” Kosovich said.
Blue icicle lights hang from the eaves. Strings of blue and bluish-white lights outline the windows, roofline, fence and loop around the chimney.
The lights continue on the garage and back fence.
The net effect of all those blue lights shimmering in the winter night makes passersby pause to contemplate their ethereal beauty.
Before moving to Burlington, the couple lived in the old Maverick Fire House on the South Side. For Christmas there, Edgerton framed each of the 27, 7-foot-tall windows with blue lights that are now part of the Burlington house display.
“It’s just a classy, cool look,” Edgerton said.
Edgerton started putting up the display before Thanksgiving, taking 2-1/2 days to finish it.
Edgerton’s grown son, Colin, did all of the roof work, including circling a string of lights around the chimney, the thought of which still makes his dad cringe.
This year, all the lights are energy-saving LEDs.
Edgerton is so focused on adding more to his light collection that when the couple visits Costco early in the season, Kosovich jokingly admonishes Edgerton to “step away from the lights.”
While Edgerton drapes the outside of the house with lights, Kosovich decorates the inside, including four Christmas trees packed with ornaments.
One on the enclosed porch is her “crazy tree,” a colorful vision of beaded wires that jut out in all directions, large glass ornaments and whimsical decorations made by a friend from large cockleburs.
A white-themed tree has snowflakes crocheted by her grandmother and crystal ornaments.
Another tree rising to the ceiling in the living room is covered with gold and white ornaments.
A small tree upstairs has framed photos of her three sons as youngsters and strings of her grandmother’s jewelry.
Across town, another family is following the beat of a different holiday drummer.
That beat, as well as Christmas music, comes from several trees made of lights broadcasting tunes on Shawn Thiel’s lawn.
Thiel and his family moved to 3192 Ave. E in 2010 not realizing that one month out of the year that stretch of the street becomes Candy Cane Lane.
Not only are candy canes one of Shawn’s favorite Christmas motifs, he has been a Christmas decorating fanatic for many years.
Sometime around his move into the house, he heard about the tradition of each family on the 3000 and 3100 blocks of Avenue E decorating their homes with lighted, crossed candy canes, which are passed down from owner to owner.
At his new house, Shawn continued his own family tradition that he started when he lived on Terry Avenue.
“I don’t like winter, but I love Christmas,” Shawn said.
Even before his two children were born, he decorated for Christmas.
“I always like looking at lights and it was fun to put them up,” he said.
Things accelerated when he and his wife, Michelle, had their son, Kyle, now 12, and daughter, Kyra, 10.
Shawn works for Scary Larry’s Pawn and Junk Inc. and Michelle at the Crowley Law Firm.
Shawn keeps adding to his collection every year. This year it was trees with LED lights that flash in time to music.
Large ornaments hang in his real trees. He outlined his roof in blue lights. In addition to the signature crossed candy canes on his son’s basketball hoop backboard in the driveway, he staked lighted candy canes around the edges of his yard.
He also has inflated Santas, Frosty the Snowman and a small hot air balloon taking a couple of penguins for a ride.
The display takes so much time to complete, Shawn starts right after Halloween.
By Dec. 1, he’s put in at least 40 hours.
This year, he put in even more time. High winds moving through Billings on Dec. 2 blew down several of his decorations.