Lights Bring Holiday Glow to Streets of Yarmouth

They start before Thanksgiving — taking inventory, checking extension cords, and restocking their supply of blinking LEDs, light-up candy canes, and remote-controlled inflatables. Then, when it’s turkey sandwich time, the work begins in earnest — stringing icicle lights, wrapping strands of white-and-crimson LEDs around tree trunks, and wiring outdoor speakers to fill the darkness with holiday music. As they toil, they wave at passers-by, who honk their horns because they know what’s coming in the nights to follow.

Melanie Corso’s house

These are the light-makers. The ornament people. The Christmas decoration devotees.  And now that the darkest weeks of the year have arrived, it’s time to get out and enjoy their efforts. So, make yourself a Thermos bottle of cocoa, maybe with a splash of peppermint. Put on your favorite Christmas music. Pack the kids and friends into the SUV and venture through the darkness … just to see the lights.

Melanie Corso’s flamboyantly decorated home in Yarmouth Port is typical of the extravagant effort that homeowners put forth each year.

She starts around Thanksgiving, with help from her daughter, son-in-law, and son. They spread out inflatable snowmen, reindeer, and puppies — some of them up to 12 feet tall. They unravel extension cords and test the capacity of every outlet. And they string up endless cords of colored lights.

The team effort takes about six hours a day for four days, she said. But the result is more than worth the effort.

Her Cape-style home at the corner of Setucket Road and Trophy Lane is ablaze each night, and passing cars slow down to admire the display. Illuminated candy-canes line the driveway; a giant puppy wags its tail, while another swivels its head inside a decorated doghouse; rainbow-colored icicle lights hang from the trees, and a team of reindeer pulls against the weight of Santa’s sleigh.

Melanie tells the story of a recent visit after she came home from work:

“My doorbell rang, and so I got up,” she said. At the door, she was confronted by a young boy — maybe 9 or 10 years old — who looked like he could have been raising money for a local charity. So, she went out on the porch to talk.

“It was the sweetest thing,” she recalled. “He said, ‘I just thought I’d tell you that I love your Christmas lights. They’re awesome.’”

It was just a boy and his friend on bicycles, she said. “But that meant the world to me.”

Throughout the holiday season, visitors stop in their cars to admire the Corso home, which isn’t far from a bike path where people sometimes pause. Or they drive around the corner to view the displays from every angle, she said.

“We’ve had grandparents pushing strollers with kids coming up and just enjoying the lights,” she explained. “And that’s what makes me happy.”

Melanie said she and her now-adult adult children still drive around to admire the lights of others, and so four years ago, her daughter, Becky Reed, started the Christmas Lights of Cape Cod Facebook group. The myriad videos and photos posted on the site attest to the artistry of holiday light-stringers from Bourne to Provincetown. The site also includes information and links to holiday decorating competitions and light-tour maps.

The group has grown to nearly 2,000 members, posting and commenting on displays in Yarmouth, Mashpee, Falmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Eastham, and other Cape communities. Of course, her own house on Trophy Lane occupies the page’s coveted cover spot.

A few recommendations: A friend of Melanie’s in Dennis has a house on Route 28 with lights that sync to FM radio for a multimedia show. There’s also a home on Icehouse Road that’s a perennial favorite. Adam Long’s residence on Powhatan Road in Yarmouth is another dazzling spot that was featured in last year’s holiday lights blog. And there are so many others in the posts and comments by members of the group.

LEDs IN HIGH DEMAND, HOLIDAY SPIRIT ABOUNDS

At the Anchor Ace Hardware Store on Route 28 in South Yarmouth, manager Jim MacNaught says sales of holiday lights are brisk this year — unlike the balmy late-autumn weather in November and early December. The warm autumn is one of the reasons why so many people have put up extravagant displays this season, he surmises. Temperatures rising into the 60s allowed homeowners to work outdoors for extended days.

The ongoing stay-at-home trend experienced throughout the pandemic has also played a role, as more people turned their attention to decorating. McNaught and others say there was a noticeable surge in holiday lighting last year. And this year, even before the Christmas decorations were pulled out of storage, yards were glowing with sculptures, LEDs, and inflatable figures for Halloween. Anchor Ace doesn’t stock inflatables, McNaught said. But lights — especially the energy-efficient LEDs — have been extremely popular.

Ace sold much of its holiday lighting inventory last year, and McNaught says he has worked hard to meet the demand this season, despite occasional supply-chain issues. In addition to selling lights, he’s seen plenty of them in breathtaking displays at homes around the mid-Cape area. And amid the hardships of COVID-19, people are looking for cheer and reaching out to help others.

He noted a moving story from the 2020 Christmas season when a customer secretly gifted one of his employee’s money for a brand-new electric bicycle. The longtime store worker, Raymond Best, was known for his unwavering kindness, as much as for pedaling 40-miles each day to and from his home in Mashpee — through the rain and snow and summer heat.

The anonymous gift was documented in “The Gift,” a YouTube video that MacNaught describes as a heart-warming turn on the seasonal customer service story. Usually, the holidays are defined by what the store’s staff can do for the community, he said. “But this was a case of the community doing something for us.”

The holiday season is all about bringing joy to others. And some do that with gifts, while others spread goodwill by lighting their homes for everyone to enjoy.

Most homeowners keep their displays intact well into the new year, so if you’re looking for a dazzling nighttime drive, there’s plenty of time to get out and see the lights.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author and freelance writer and editor.)

Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll 2021

Looking to recapture some old-fashioned holiday cheer this Christmas? Then kick off the season with all the traditional trappings in Yarmouth Port.

Sip hot chocolate or candy cane tea. Listen to holiday carolers and get your children’s photo taken with Santa Claus. Or just gather up gift ideas as you sample tantalizing treats in a mile-and-a-half-long buffet line — all for free.

Yes! The Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll is back.

“We are so excited to bring back the Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll for 2021,” said the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Marketing, Communications, and Events Director Jenn Werner. “It is a great family event that is completely free.”

The Stroll was placed on ice last year due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, but it returns on Sunday (Dec. 5) providing a heap of holiday hospitality to visitors along Route 6A.

The event will be held from 1-4 p.m., rain or shine, followed by a tree-lighting ceremony at 4 p.m., with a blessing by Rev. Will Vaus of the First Congregational Church and caroling on the Village Green. If the weather turns chilly or if your feet get tired, just hop onto a free trolley, with stops along the way.

“The Stroll will be full of activities, live music, food, and new entertainment,” Werner said.

There are crafts with Mrs. Claus at Just Picked Gifts; refreshments and performances by Rosalita’s Puppets at Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod; live music by the Harper and the Minstrel at Chapter House; Lady Feyline’s Fantastikal face-painting and popcorn at Edward Gorey House; and a roaming balloon artist from Fun Clowns Balloons.

Meanwhile, at the Inn on Main, a pianist will perform seasonal music while guests sip holiday punch from innkeeper Sarah Bradburn’s grandmother’s recipe and munch on gluten-free oatmeal-cranberry cookies made by co-owner and chef Chris Kennedy. Simply Vintage of Cape Cod will serve cookies, hot cider, and doughnuts; Jack’s Outback II will have hot dogs and hot chocolate; and Taylor-Bray Farm will serve up free cider, hot chocolate, and cookies (with holiday trees, wreaths, centerpieces, and other gift items available for purchase).

A favorite stop for families is the Captain Bangs Hallet House, an authentically furnished sea captain’s home on Strawberry Lane. The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth hosts a visit from Santa Claus, who poses for free photos with children. The pictures are processed by Walgreens and can be picked up later at the South Yarmouth store.

This year, due to pandemic-related precautions, Santa will be greeting youngsters on the historical home’s porch. And masks will be necessary for children who want to meet with Santa or for families who choose to tour the home’s decorated interior, according to Bill Archie, program chairman for the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

Another hot spot is the Yarmouth New Church, where musical performances are scheduled throughout the afternoon. From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., listen to some 20 tubists from Christmas Tuba  “oom-pah-pah” as one, followed by Cape Cod Carolers at 3 p.m. The carolers will later join the Regency Brass Band at the Village Green and perform at the tree-lighting ceremony scheduled for dusk.

Participating businesses, civic groups, and nonprofit organizations include: Captain Bangs Hallet House, the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, Chapter House Cape Cod, Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Design Works, Edward Gorey House, First Congregational Church of Yarmouth, Harvest of Barnstable, the Inn on Main, Jack’s Outback II, Just Picked Gifts, Lighthouse Keeper’s Pantry, Simply Vintage of Cape Cod, Taylor Bray Farm, The Friday Club, The Pampered Pearl Skin Care Studio, Voila!, Yarmouth New Church, W.D. Price, Yarmouth Port Library, and Yoga of Yarmouth Port.

Find more information about the stroll on the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Events Calendar. The YCC site also has a detailed map of the Yarmouth Port Christmas Stroll route, with a guide to attractions at every stop.

The event is sponsored in part by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Fund.