Fairfield home lights up - and how! - with holiday spirit
Just around dusk, Angelus Papageorge steps out the door of his Kings Highway home. He hits a button on a small remote and the yard and house come to life -- and light. Lots and lots of light.
He takes his daily walk-through to make sure all the thousands of lights lining the two-family home and all the inflatable decorations filling every inch of space in the yard are in proper working order.
Anyone who has seen the house would think there isn't possibly room for more Christmas decorations, but don't tell Papageorge that. "We have expansion plans," he said, as he juggled his 10-month-old son Jack on his knee. "I see some things around town, and I wonder where they got them."
Stings of lights run down the sides of the house, and a custom-made sleigh sits waiting for Santa. There's a lighted Nativity scene, Snoopy in a hot air balloon, an inflatable Ferris wheel and an entire Mickey Mouse village.
Papageorge didn't start this holiday happening, that was his inlaw's -- Jeff and Judy Toth -- doing. The Toth's live on the first floor, Papageorge, his wife Wendy and son Jack live on the second floor. "They started doing this before I was here," Papageorge said, though he admits, "it was a lot smaller."
They start decorating the first weekend in November and spend every weekend, and many evenings after work, putting the decorations in place.
The lights and decorations don't get turned on until everything is in place. "We do a lighting ceremony," Papageorge said. "This year it was on Dec. 4. We invite friends and family and ask everyone to bring nonperishable foods or a toy for Toys for Tots. Even Santa Claus stops in for a visit, brought there aboard a fire truck from the Southport Volunteer Fire Department. (Papageorge has an "in" there -- he's the chief of the volunteer fire unit).
This year, the event collected about 150 toys and 20 bags of groceries. The groceries were turned over to the Black Rock Food Pantry. The Papageorges leave a box out for passersby who wish to donate as well.
Papageorge thinks his love for Christmas lights and decorations may stem from a lack of lights during his childhood. His siblings, he said, weren't interested in doing any outdoor lighting and he was limited to just one tree that he could drape with lights. So when he grew up and moved out on his own, he let his inner Christmas elf kick into high gear.
These days, Papageorge said they shop for new lights and decorations once Christmas is done and the sales are on. People also often stop by and donate lights and decorations they're no longer using.
He said the dazzling display adds about $150 each to both his and his in-law's electric bill for the month of December.
With many of the surrounding houses two-family homes, Papageorge said the neighborhood is transient, so often his neighbors are taken by surprise by the Christmas tableau. "They see the Halloween display and they think it can't get any better," he said. "But it does."