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November 19, 2017

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Henderson’s own ‘Griswold’ lights up holiday season


Leila Navidi

Dennis and Susan Thomas’ home in Henderson, seen on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, won first place in the “Griswold” category for the City of Henderson’s holiday light contest.

Click to enlarge photo

Quiver Point Avenue in Henderson, seen on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, won first place in the "Street Competition" category for the City of Henderson's holiday light contest.

Click to enlarge photo

Dennis and Susan Thomas' home in Henderson, seen on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, won first place in the "Griswold" category for the City of Henderson's holiday light contest.

His family calls him Clark Griswold.

Now they have even more reason to bestow the nickname on 61-year-old Dennis Thomas. He won first place in the Henderson holiday light contest’s “Griswold” category — an ode to Chevy Chase’s light-loving character in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

“It just does something inside me when these kids come by and say, ‘Oh, that’s so cute,’ ” said Thomas, clutching his heart.

The father of five and grandfather of 12 isn’t a newcomer to the lights business. He started decking his homes with lights 20 years ago and hasn’t stopped since — despite a few blown fuses along the way.

Thomas’ light display one year drew the attention of a man who asked him to decorate his home. That encounter led Thomas to start a side business, Light It Up, which decorated 20 homes this year, he said.

His home, located at 489 Beaconwood St. off Green Valley Parkway, glows from afar. In fact, it’s difficult to absorb all the details of this year’s “winter wonderland” theme.

Thomas' home

There are 17 snowmen of various shapes and sizes, several Santas, lit-up ornaments hanging from front-yard trees and blinking lights synchronized to audible Christmas tunes — and that’s not even the entirety.

Thomas and his trusty helpers, including his wife Sue, drag 24 plastic storage boxes filled with lights and decorations from their attic each fall as they begin the monthlong decorating period.

But, really, the process starts much earlier.

“He starts in August with this stuff,” his wife clarified. “He’s like, ‘I have an idea …’”

It grows from there. He scouts other neighborhoods, searching for inspiration, and shops for the latest light trinkets and do-dads all year.

“These days, there’s less and less good stuff,” he said with an air of disappointment. “They’ve gotten real simple with stuff.”

Don’t tell that to the electric company. Thomas and his wife say their electric bill increased by $70 for a two-week period, and they anticipate spending another $90 before their yard goes dark after New Year’s Day.

The extra cost doesn’t faze the couple.

“Christmas is not what it used to be when I was younger,” Thomas said. “A lot of people don’t do anything, and to me, it’s a joy to celebrate the Lord.”

If the twinkling lights elsewhere in his neighborhood are any indication, Thomas’ efforts might be paying off.

“I’ve been here nine years, and when I first moved here, hardly anyone lit up,” he said. “Now there’s more people than ever with lights.”

His one complaint? Square footage.

“The problem is I need a bigger yard,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do with a little yard. We’re on the roof now.”

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