MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) — A long-standing holiday tradition will brighten the mood later this week, and we’re not talking a big plate of turkey.
We mean the tradition of flipping the switch — Clark Griswold style — as holiday light displays draw ooohs and aaahs. But for a Minnetonka man, it’s the final year of climbing ladders and stringing tens of thousands of colored lights.
For Gene Stageberg, there’s a point when tradition gives way to age.
Take a walk down candy cane alley. Where for more than a quarter century, Gene and Linda Stageberg’s Minnetonka home has been a holiday beacon.
“I don’t know. I love Christmas lights, 25 years ago then a little more, a little more and more,” Gene said.
It’s grown to some 70,000 thousand lights. And it takes Gene six weeks to assemble.
“That takes a long time to wrap all the trunks of the trees,” Gene said.
And stake down all the Santas, trees and candy canes.
Keeping all this lit can be a bit spendy, though it’s gotten a lot cheaper since LEDs.
“Biggest one was $800, one month,” Gene said.
Inside their home, every room is a Christmas village: Santas and snowmen, and six different trees with ornaments of all kinds. Gene’s wife, Linda, calls it a labor of love.
“We love sharing with other people and bringing joy to their lives,” Linda said.
But at 85, climbing ladders and stringing lights is more chore than cheer. Not to mention dangerous. So Gene and Linda plan to downsize to a smaller, simpler home.
“I’ve got to have one more year for the Christmas lights, so we put it off a year,” Gene said.
But don’t despair. They promise to hold onto the Christmas spirit with a downsized lighting display wherever they move. Normally, they don’t light it up until Thanksgiving night, often to the delight of 100 guests who are served hot cider and cookies.
But we got a sneak peek Monday night. And if you’re wondering how to get there, it’s very easy: Just north of Highway 7 off 101 – and east on Lake Street Extension. You’ll see the glow.