It may be a silly tradition to spend hundreds of dollars and hours lighting up the outside of your home each year for Christmas, but those who truly go all out in Ahwatukee Foothills say it's just about a love for the holidays.
"I enjoy doing Christmas lights," said Frank Kostyun. "When I was young we used to go out as a family and look at Christmas lights. There was one family in particular, I always loved their display. I think they gave me my inspiration. I always loved it when I was younger and I'm recreating that for other people."
The Kostyun family has lived in their home since 2001. When they moved in, in the summer, a neighbor told them there was a lights competition in the neighborhood, and that they better keep up. The first few years they did keep up, but ever since 2004 they've blown all expectations away.
Each year they've grown and become more advanced. Now they have thousands of lights, mostly LED, covering their yard, and all set to music transmitted over the radio.
Though the Kostyuns do their lights only as a hobby, the circuit board Frank created is now being sold through his website to other hobbyists around the world.
"I think the challenge of designing everything really drives him," said Christine Kostyun, Frank's wife. "For him I think that while the end result is very gratifying, the challenge he puts on himself every year to change something or add something or add a song, that's as much fun."
Another lights enthusiast, Frank Polimene, has been putting on his Santa Train display for 33 years.
"I just love Christmas," Polimene said. "I do it mostly for the kids. I love seeing them watch the display, especially now that I have a granddaughter who loves to see it each night."
Polimene began his display in Baltimore when his sons were young. He bought them a train for Christmas and when they had lost interest in it by the next year, he decided to build a display out of it. Each year he tried to add something new to the display and when they moved to Arizona 21 years ago it made his display easier to operate because he no longer had to fight the snow. The train has now been running and growing for 33 years.
"I have a following," Polimene said. "I have people that come over that have come since they were a kid. Now they're bringing their own kids here. It's kind of a tradition for me and I think if I stopped there would be a small revolt. I enjoy doing it. There's years when I work on it all year long trying to think of something new to add."
This year, Polimene has added a singing and dancing Santa Claus in his garage. He says his 2-year-old granddaughter loves to show the crowds how to make it all work.
Both the Kostyuns and Polimene have had people try to donate to their light displays over the years. Now they've begun accepting the donations, and always give the donations to a worthy cause. The Kostyuns donate funds to the American Diabetes Association and Frank Polimene matches donations he receives and sends a check to Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Both homes are lit up each night, but Polimene says for the full effect he only lets his snow machine run on the weekends. For more information on the displays, visit santatrain.com or ahwatukeeholidays.com.
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