A real, live Clark Griswold

A grandfather who treats his grandkids to an annual round of Christmas light viewing tipped me off to 108 Cedar Street. It’s hidden down an underdeveloped road in the center of town.

108 Cedar is a regular rental house 8 months out of the year, a full-fledged project zone 3 months out of the year, and every kid’s Christmastime dreamland 1 month out of the year.

“Dad, it’s for you. It’s about the lights,” Jimmy Sartain’s teenage daughter announced with a certain degree of ho-hum-ness when I knocked on their door. From the sound of things, she may not carry on the family tradition Mr. Sartain acquired from his father, who passed away earlier this year.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to do the light display this year,” Sartain said with a tear in his eye. “But when I told a neighbor that, you’d thought I’d just stepped on his baby chickens.”

Sartain did leave some attractions grounded for 2011: a Santa-bearing helicopter that rises above the tree line, icicles cris-crossing over the road.

“Still, small aircraft think I’m an airstrip,” asserts Sartain who works at the Boerne Stage Airfield.

Despite the scale-down, a train still chugs, a chimney still smokes, a holiday hot air balloon still inflates, lights still flash to Carol of the Bells or another of twenty-nine Christmas tunes that broadcast on 104.9 FM. A virtual Santa speaks to your kids on another frequency.

“The look on the kids’ faces is priceless when they see him. Even parents do a double-take,” Sartain explains.

Sartain’s spectacle by the numbers:
100,000 lights
30,000 watts of electricity
1,500 visitors
92 electrical switches
9 miles of extension cord
6 Light-o-rama “brains”
1 computer

And the electric bill?

“It’s kinda high,” Sartain understated. “It was $1,500 three years ago. It’ll probably be around $700 this year.”

Hence the need for the donations box beside row of candy canes Sartain puts out for the kids. “I’ve gotten about 60 bucks so far this year.”

And what do the neighbors say?

“They pretty much call me Griswold,” referring to the character played by Chevy Chase in the 1989 cult classic Christmas Vacation. In true Vacation fashion, an RV adorns the premises.

“That’s Santa’s cabin,” Sartain says. “It holds a lot of the switches.”

To maintain good relations with the neighbors, Sartain switches off the festivities by 9 p.m. on weeknights and 9:30 or 10 p.m. on weekends. He mows one neighbor’s grass for the right to stretch his colorful kingdom across her otherwise dark domain.

Sadly, some visitors aren’t so neighborly. An empty space sits where once laid baby Jesus in a lighted nativity scene.

“I heard some kids were having one of those scavenger hunts,” Sartain theorized. “Somebody needed a baby Jesus, I guess.”

Particularly somebody who steals one.

How does Sartain support himself and his high voltage habit? He’s an electrician, of course. His late father was a postman.

Fitting: one generation delivered kids’ visions to Santa. The next delivers Santa’s visions to kids.

From Main Street, take Blanco east. Then take the first left past Plant Avenue, Oak Lane. Cedar Street will be up on your right.

The street sign will say “No Outlet,” but don’t believe it. There are actually many outlets, all being put to very good use.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Subscribe to his articles at http://www.kwt.info.

1 Response to “A real, live Clark Griswold”

  1. 1 Jonathan December 15, 2011 at 21:02


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