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Massena Chamber selects winning holiday displays

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MASSENA - October is barely over when the Cheesman family turns their attention to Christmas.

That’s how long it takes them to sort and plan and then put up their decorations, which this year earned the family a first-place finish in the 2012 Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce holiday decorating contest.

The Cheesman’s home at 3 Baldwin Ave. won in competition north of the Grasse River, while Lydia Marlar, 24 Douglas Road, won first place for south of the Grasse River.

Second and third-place winners north of the Grasse River were Gloria Dupree, 20 Haskell St., and Bob Rochefort, 44 Martin St. South of the Grasse River, the second and third-place finishers were Richard and Joyce Giroux, 10 School St., and Joe and Julie Chontosh, 415 LaRue Road.

Commercial business also had an opportunity to enter, and this year’s winner was Studio 162, 47-49 Main St.

Kevin Cheesman, his wife Candice and their son Jack make it a family affair when it comes to decorating their Baldwin Avenue home.

Visitors to their home will find an eclectic mix of decorations on display, including a Nativity scene and the Peanuts characters dressed in Biblical style, a see-saw with Santa on one end and several elves on the other, lights galore around the house and on a front yard tree, penguins, more Santas and more decorations.

A sign in the front of the yard beckons visitors to tune their radios to 102.3 FM, where the holiday music is synchronized with the display.

Setting up an award-wining display doesn’t happen overnight.

“I start just after Halloween. The first part of December I really go full out,” Mr. Cheesman said.

Everything is laid out in the garage before the family puts it in place in the front yard, he said.

“My son comes out every day after work and sets things up,” he said.

The collection of decorations keeps growing. He said they’ve been collecting them for about three years.

“We make some of it and buy some of it,” Mr. Cheesman said. “The Nativity is new for this year. Each year I look at what we did and want to do even better next year.”

The FM signal comes via a controller they purchased that plays music and synchronizes the lights, according to Mr. Cheesman.

Despite the massive lighting display, he said his most recent electric bill only went up $20.

“I’m not sure how much it’s going to go up on the next bill. I had to upgrade the electric circuit breaker so it wouldn’t trip,” he said.

“I really enjoy the lights,” Mr. Cheesman said. “Christmas is my favorite time of year. It puts me in the Christmas mood.”

If you display it, they will come, he said.

“Cars are parked out there pretty much all night long,” he said.

Lydia Marlar, the other first-place winner, has a back yard display that’s visislble at the corner of Douglas Road and Ridegewood Avenue. Lights are a big part of her effort, including some that decorate her above-ground pool.

“It’s like two properties I own. It has a pool and big deck. For the last few years that’s where I’ve always done it and everybody comes by and looks at it,” she said.

Her display includes a star with strings coming off it.

“It looks like a tree off my window,” Ms. Marlar said.

Hanging lights decorate the top of the pool, while colored light sticks add the festive touch around the bottom of the pool.

“The fence has red and green wreaths on it, and I have a manger scene on back in the middle of it. I have a horse and carriage coming to a lane, carrying presents to a lane that’s going toward the tree,” she said.

Visitors will also fine a big Christmas angel with what appears to be candlea around her, as well as other festive touches.

“My kitchen has gazebo-type windows and I have icicles that look like they’re dripping around that,” she said.

Like the Cheesman’s timeline, Ms. Marlar said she starts before the snow is flying.

“I start decorating right after Halloween. We had really nice weather until just recently, so I had plenty of time to get it all done,” she said.

“I’ll get in the modo and then go, ‘OK, I’ll put this here and put this there.’ I just go by, ‘OK, this will look cool this year,’” she explained.

Chamber Executive Director Michael J. Gleason said they had approximately 15 entries total for homes north and south of the Grasse River, as well as businesses. Those numbers are on par with previous years, he said.

“We’re trying to encourage more people to sign up. There were other places that didn’t sign up. We’d love to have 50 of them,” he said.

Six or seven judges take a few nights to look at and score those who have entered. They’re looking at overall impression, design and lighting.

“You never know who’s going to win until the numbers are tallied up,” Mr. Gleason said.

The winning homes receive a certificate, which was presented during December’s business after-hours event at the chamber office. The winning business takes possession of a traveling plaque from Peets Jewelers until the next contest.

“Peets Jewelers has done that for years,” he said.

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