Well-known Vinton display might cut back

With the first snowfall, people might already be thinking about Christmas. For one Christmas tradition in Vinton, it is a year-round preparation.

At a home in Vinton, about two and one half miles northwest of the center of town, thousands of lights and displays are put up every year. Set up begins around Labor Day, and many make a point to drive by when the lights and decorations are all turned on.

For the woman who calls the holiday haven home, it is a tradition she is not ready to give up but is preparing to scale back.

"It's every Christmas I've ever known," said Heidi Kersten, who is putting up her family-long tradition for the 54th year this year.

Between all the pulleys, gears, and all other moving parts, the hand-painted characters, and bunches of lights have lasted generations. They are not as old as the dinosaurs, but for Kersten, it's a family tradition she will forever preserve.

"Seeing it every year keeps me going," Kersten said. "I love to watch the people enjoy it."

"It has a place in my heart and I think it's just something that everyone I've ever brought out to it, it also finds a place into their heart," said Melody Snow, who has made a point to see the display annually for years.

Kersten said there are more than 32,000 lights, and more than five-and-one-half miles of electrical cords to plug in, which takes a lot of power and certainly does not come cheap.

"You're using the equivalent of about 40 houses here, probably," said Mike Hepker, an electrician who volunteers to set up the display. "But they'd all have to be running the stove cooking the turkey, have every dang light on in your house."

Kersten puts on the display in memory of her parents, who passed away about 20 years ago. They designed many of the pieces still out today. For Kersten, this year has been the most challenging one yet, starting last Spring.

"I found out the car had an accident coming through, 'smushing' the fence down, basically damaging a lot of stuff and killing my dog in the process," Kersten said.

Kersten is also dealing with health problems, making it even harder to set everything up. But with support, she is hoping to continue the tradition, but on a smaller scale in the future.

"If we could get people to come out and just help, even just spend a little bit of time doing something- if she can just direct you with what you need to do that would be awesome," Snow said.

"It isn't the amount of people, it's the kind of help you get and the reason they want to help- that is really nice to have," Kersten said.

"I can't imagine not doing it," Kersten said.

Kersten said she was appreciative of all the help she had received in the recent days helping her get everything ready. She plans to have everything up and running, at least for testing, by Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

If you want to see the display, she said asking around town will normally help you in the right direction. She also said for those interested in helping with the high electric costs, you can always drop a dollar or two by the giraffe on display as you crawl by.

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