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Plugged in for the holidays

  • Jan Mandler and her son Tony Mandler in front of their Clairmont Court home in Petaluma. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Christmas decorating has brought out the competitive juices in a pair of Petaluma neighbors.

At the end of Clairmont Court in northeast Petaluma, the Tidwells and Mandlers face off in a friendly contest of whose yard boasts the most holiday spirit.

Jan Mandler has lived on the cul-de-sac for 38 years and always decorated, though not to the extreme.

Then eight years ago, Mark and Andrea Tidwell moved in across the court. They liked to decorate, too, but they had a son in 2009 and that sparked a boom, Mark Tidwell said.

“I'll blame it on him,” he said sheepishly, “but I truly enjoy it.”

Now that his son is old enough to appreciate the blinking lights, colorful decorations and fanciful Disney characters, Tidwell said he “probably tripled” his effort from last year.

And that hasn't gone unnoticed by the Mandlers.

“I even had T-shirts made up that say, ‘Hey, is that all you got?' ” Jan Mandler said. “When we're decorating, we're hollering across the street together. He's just as goofy as us.

“We've just had a ball.”

While some folks decorate to the hilt with massive amounts of lights, for this crew it's more about creativity than numbers.

The Tidwells built a Santa's workshop and added several Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse.

“It took a good two or three days to complete. The day I finished, I didn't even let (Nathan) and my wife come home until I was done,” he said. “He just went bonkers, he was so excited.”

Nathan makes a point each night now to go outside and say goodnight to Santa and all the other characters — even those in the Mandlers' yard.

“I can't wait to see what my light bill's going to be this year, but it's totally worth it,” Tidwell said.

Jan Mandler and her son Tony have created a Christmas Candy Court, complete with a gingerbread oven.

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