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The Daily Camera: Lifestyles Lighting up Boulder

Whimsical ideas and creativity abound in county's brilliant Christmas displays

By Susan Glairon, Camera Staff Writer
December 13, 2002

At precisely 4:30 p.m., driveway lights and red Christmas bell ornaments abruptly switch on at the Komarnitsky house. At 4:31, 4:32 and 4:33, shimmering icicles, a 20-foot homemade snowman and waving Santas successively click on, along with thousands of other lights in each zone.

It never fails. By 4:34 p.m., 2510 Blue Heron Circle in Lafayette is bathed from top to bottom in dazzling lights.

"It's drawing almost half at what maximum capacity the house could draw," Alek Komarnitsky says. "The electric meter spins like hell."

Komarnitsky, 39, a self described "computer geek" who works with rocket scientists by day, is the mastermind behind one of Boulder County's most extensive Christmas light displays. Four backup systems ensure the 22,000 Christmas lights adorning his home switch on and off like clockwork.

The Komarnitsky home is one of scores in Boulder County whose holiday decorations caught the eye of Camera readers or staff. Our list includes a Santa swooping above a rooftop in Boulder, strands of lights that mysteriously appear to be suspended in mid-air in Louisville and singing Disney characters in Longmont. There also are many colorful nativity scenes, elegant displays, and arrangements —like Komarnitsky's — that pack in as many lights as possible.

A complex electrical system delicately balances the power so fuses don't blow. Komarnitsky's wife, Wendy, 37, and sons Dirk, 4, ("a whiz at finding blown-out lights"), and Kyle, 1, (who's "good at stepping on the lights"), assisted with stringing lights.

Some features of the display are "total nerd geek stuff," as Alek Komarnitsky says. He carries a wireless keypad that lets him turn on and off each zone from inside or outside his home. He installed a webcam so anyone— across the globe— can view his home's Christmas lights on his Web site ( turn them on or off by zone between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

"I do it because it's there," Komarnitsky says. "We're geeks. There's no good reason."

But it's not just amps and kilowatts. Komarnitsky says he enjoys the artistic outlet (no pun intended). The huge Frosty has shimmering blue sphere eyes, a traffic cone for a nose and purple-lit buttons.

And there are other reasons: Web site hits, e-mails from strangers, compliments from neighbors and appreciative honks from those driving by are pure payoff.

"He's a rocket scientist, but a 6-year-old about his Christmas lights," says neighbor Nancy Davis, 39. "Everyone gets a kick out of it."

Across town, another scientist has engineered a similar number of lights on a smaller home. Dan Vigliotti, 52, and his wife, Peggy, 47, have 20,000 lights at their Lafayette home at 1007 Alsace Way.

Outside, a homemade wooden counter reveals the number of days 'til Christmas. There's a Santa on the roof, a lit nativity scene and snowflakes. Even the side of the house and backyard are covered with colorful lights and creative homemade decorations. But that's just outside.

The Vigliottis have another 10,000 lights inside the house.

"We like Christmas," Peggy Vigliotti says.

Inside their home, everyday things are packed away, replaced by stuffed and porcelain Santas and reindeers, nutcrackers, green-and-red checkered tablecloths and a Christmas clock that plays holiday music every hour, among hundreds of other Christmas novelties. Lights and greenery bathe their home in a warm holiday glow. Christmas linens, dishes, silverware, bedding and shower curtain, throw rugs and towels can also be found in the house.

"From the Christian point of view, you are supposed to shine a light," Peggy says of her outdoor lights. "It's our way of shining the light to the world to show our love for Jesus."

And after it's over?

"I can have Valentine's Day to look forward to," Peggy says.

At 8 Lincoln Place in Longmont, Debbie and Tom Martinez take a different tack, turning their front lawn into an amusement park of sorts. "We lost control many years ago," Debbie says.

Kids and adults can walk around the site, which includes a castle filled with singing Disney characters dressed in Christmas garb, a doll house, Santa and elves, moving deer and a gingerbread house.

"It's a little hideaway," says Tom, a plumbing contractor. "A little escape."

At Komarnitsky's house, lights start popping off at exactly 10 p.m. Alek Komarnitsky says setting up and breaking down the lights is a lot of work. He may take a break next year.

But there are many reasons that may cause him to change his mind: the pressure from neighbors to do something more outlandish each year; his knack for finding lights reduced 90 percent in after-Christmas sales; and the fact that he's calculated he has enough room to store 2.5 million lights in his crawl space, although he's limited by the 55,000-light capacity of the house.

Only time will tell.