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Extravagant Christmas light displays wow kids and adults

  • Thousands of Christmas lights and custom decorations light up 309 Michael Drive in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

The warm glow of green, white and red lights emanating from the Pinola family Christmas display beckons passing motorists from blocks away.

A sign out front implores passersby to explore the front yard at 309 Michael Dr. in Santa Rosa, and a closer inspection reveals tiny details: a miniature snowy village display in a window box, more than 100 handmade wooden Christmas characters, reindeer parachuting from the roof.

A mechanical snowman above the front door shoots “snow” out of a tophat dusting visitors Liana, 5, and Ray Macias, 3, who prance gleefully in the winter wonderland.

Holiday Lights Around Sonoma County

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“Yay snow!” the children shout.

Benny Macias, their father, said this west Santa Rosa house has long been a stop on the family's annual Christmas light tour.

“We see this house every year,” said Macias of Santa Rosa. “It's beautiful. It's one of the best.”

The Pinola home is adorned with 35,948 lights, and the family of five starts building the display each year just after Labor Day, said Karissa Pinola, 22, a Sonoma State University student.

“It takes a couple of months to get it all set up,” she said. “We started doing this when I was five. It wasn't at this scale, but we've been scaling it up since then.”

Parents Jerry, a city utility worker, and Laura, a teacher's assistant, have encouraged each of their three children to make a wooden yard ornament every year.

“We love it,” Karissa Pinola said. “It's kind of our gift to the community. It's great to see everyone come and look at it and be happy while they're here.”

On a recent chilly night, a crowd gathered in front of the house to gape and snap pictures of the spectacle. For many families, a Christmas light tour is a holiday tradition.

In recent years, online applications — including pressdemocrat.com/lights — have popped up to show people where to find the best displays. But many light seekers still rely on word-of-mouth.

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