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Ron Kaye: Christmas lights and simpler times

December 18, 2011

The spirit of Christmas past and present is alive and well on a modest, middle-class block in Burbank, where nearly everybody lights up their front yards with fantastic displays that would warm the cold, cold heart of the meanest Scrooge.

This Christmas Street isn’t just strings of lights amid Santa Claus figures, sugarplum fairies and nativity scenes.

There are animated displays, like a merry-go-round that turns, and trains that chug along, a Ferris wheel that seems to be rotating, thanks to flashing digital lights, a pop-up Santa jack-in-the-box and a 25-foot-tall Christmas tree made of wires and LED lights that glow in the night.

Welcome to the 500 block of North Florence Street between Clark and Verdugo, where Troy and Jennifer Fagnani and their kids Michael and Katherine won first prize in this year’s Burbank Civic Pride Committee’s Christmas display contest with their brilliantly lit Rudolph and reindeer on the roof guiding Santa through the night — the snow machine covering the grass in white fluff, the giant tree of lights and so much more.

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“This is a community effort, no doubt about it; friends and neighbors are always helping,” Troy said as he showed a visitor around his magical masterpiece.

“I think a sense of community is something that’s missing a lot today. It’s gone, that’s huge.... As much as I do this for my kids, for my family, for myself, the real reward is to see all the cars going by and the people who walk by and say some nice things.”

This is the house Jennifer grew up in and bought from her parents 10 years ago because she “loved the community, loved the schools. I can remember as a kid seeing all the lights and how magical it was. It’s still about as Mayberry as it is going to get.”

Christmas on North Florence starts right after Halloween, when the displays start going up — a time-consuming task, given how elaborate so many of them are. They are also costly, sending electricity bills soaring and requiring extra circuit breakers and care to avoid blackouts.

“It feels so good to help put people in the Christmas mood, to sit here and watch them take it all in,” Jennifer said. “We have carolers come to the front porch.”

Troy added, “It’s kind of corny, but people from every walk of life come by and say thank you. It makes you feel you’re giving something back.”

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