Lighting the night

Matt Weir / The Collegian

Welty, other residents prepare homes for holiday season

The holiday spirit enveloped Fresno this weekend with the lighting of Christmas Tree Lane.

The street opened to spectators on Saturday with the first walk night. On these nights, the street is only open to foot traffic.

Homeowner Dean Alexander has participated in the Christmas Tree Lane festivities since 1991 and said this time of year is the most stressful for him, but it is also his favorite.

“This is one way we give back to the community,” Alexander said.

Alexander has spent the past seven weekends getting ready for the 87th annual street lighting. Friday morning he was on his hands and knees cutting fake grass to put down under his display.

Alexander does not decorate his home by himself. He hires high school and college students to help him. Each weekend that he’s worked on his house Alexander has had 10 to 14 people helping him.

“I had to take vacation this week to be able to get ready to go,” Alexander said.

Alexander tries to have a theme with his decorations. “We try to make it tactful, so it’s not just displays over displays,” Alexander said.

Each year he tries to add a new decoration to his yard. Alexander said he has not missed decorating for Christmas in the 18 years he’s lived on Van Ness, despite the fact that his electric bill during this time of year quadruples. Every night the lights are on from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Not only is Alexander responsible for decorating his own home, but he is in charge of the entire street.

According to Alexander, decorating one’s house is not required. However, he said he is in charge of adding decorations to homes of people who choose not to decorate.

“We don’t intrude on their yard. We put them in the easement,” Alexander said. The easements are from the edge of the yard to the street.

Dr. John Welty, who has been decorating his house since he became university president in 1991, said in an earlier interview that the community and the homeowners’ association expect residents to decorate their houses.

“They [the homeowners’ association] indicate that they’ll put a decoration up, which is pretty embarrassing,” Welty said.

Welty does not decorate his home by himself. He has university employees that help.

“Rosie Tapia, who is our events coordinator, leads a crew of people that do all the outside work and my wife Sharon does the inside work with lots of other help,” Welty said.

Like Alexander, Welty tries to add new decorations every year.

“We do use some different colors and different formats,” Welty said.

The homeowners’ association does do decorating of its own. It pays Shawn Caglia to hang lights on the cedar trees along the lane. Alexander said it takes three months to put up and two months to take down.

In the 87 years that the association has been lighting up Van Ness, the street has only been dark twice, in 1941 and 1973. This year, the lane is open from Dec. 5 to Dec. 26, and one more walking night will take place on Dec. 15.

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