MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — ‘Tis the season to hop in the car with the family and take an evening drive to see all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.
Some houses have a string or two, while others go all-out.
So we asked where to find the best Christmas lights in Minnesota, and you picked a spectacular display in Willmar that took 900 hours to put up.
And this isn’t a city display — it’s just one family’s house and yard.
Chad Koosman doesn’t do small.
“They say it’s bigger in Texas, but I think it’s bigger in Willmar,” Koosman said.
And that’s why his Christmas lights display — called “Celebrate the Light of the World” — was voted best in the state.
It all started with a friendly bell-ringing competition between Chad and the Salvation Army’s best ringer.
“I started ringing that bell every day. I’d ring it four hours, my competition would ring it six. I’d ring it six, he’d ring it seven. I couldn’t catch up. I’m like, ‘What do I do?'” Koosman said.
He went outside the box and erected a Christmas light display at his house to draw people in. The first display was 100,000 lights.
“But now we are up to 400,000 lights,” he said.
And they all dance to music.
Chad made $800 for charity that first year in 2007. And as the show grew, so did the donations.
“The next year we raised $19,500. The following year we raised $42,000. The year after that was $52,000, then $57,000 and last year was $75,000 — all raised for the Salvation Army,” he said.
That spirit spreads to the thousands of people traveling near and far to see “Celebrate the Light of the World.”
But of all those who gazed at the astonishing display, there was one who came through and never left.
“We can bring a lot of joy to people through the Christmas lights, but the biggest joy that came to me was this wonderful lady,” Koosman said, hugging his wife.
In 2010, a beautiful brunette named Angie came to see the lights with her parents.
“He Googled me, and got a hold of me, and we went on our first date on New Year’s Eve,” Angie said.
A year later, Chad proposed in front of the lights, fireworks and 500 spectators.
Despite the hundreds of hours it takes to create “Celebrate the Light of the World,” the Koosmans do it for the little miracles they see every day.
“We can get lost in Santa and the elves and the fun and the joy which we bring to kids’ faces, but the important part is just keeping Christ in Christmas,” Angie said.
The Koosmans say they aren’t stopping with their annual display until they raise $1 million for the Salvation Army.
In addition to lights, they have ice skating daily and drive-in Christmas movies on weekends.
The whole display is an investment of time, the Koosmans’ own money and support from sponsors.
Surprisingly, their daily electric bill is just $12 because they use LED lights.