Gayla Park's


LA Daily News
Saturday, December 26, 1998

Home outshines neighbors
By Jesse Hiestand, Daily News

Gayla Park spends six weeks
each year decorating her home
and front yard in the 23300
block of West Hills' Schoolcraft
..WEST HILLS -- Gayla Park's front yard
..phantasmagoria of candy canes, poinsettias,
..sleds, Santa's home and more than 60,000
..lights strung along eaves and into trees
..regularly prompts passing motorists to stop
..and admire.

.."Somebody came by the other night and
..yelled: `Turn on the lights!' " Park recalled.

And to think it started 38 years ago at the Park residence with a single strand of lights that now stands as a luminous landmark in the 23300 block of Schoolcraft Street, prompting next-door neighbors to erect their own displays.

Like Jim Sieker.

"We figured that since we had Disneyland across the street we should do something or they would think we were the town Scrooge," said Sieker, 41, who this year put a plywood cutout of the Nativity scene in his front yard and may add more outdoor lights next season.

Many of the houses near Park's have at least one strand of lights on during the evenings. But some homes are as dark as a lump of coal.

One woman said she preferred to keep her lights and decorations inside.

Others opted to keep their lights turned off when they were away from home.

For Andy Denes, 51, it was an easy call: "We're Jewish."

Neighbor Ann Donovan wandered over to take a closer look at Park's display and noted the contagious effect it and other large-scale displays have on other residents.

"I've noticed that more people have decorations up this year than in a while," said Donovan, 51. "Despite what's going on in the world, everyone seems more optimistic."

For Sieker's part, he insisted that jealousy of the Parks' display did not necessarily motivate his entrance in the Christmas light derby, only a desire to remind people of the holiday's religious significance.

Jealousy, perhaps not. But the Parks' display nevertheless inspires awe from the neighborhood.

Sieker's next-door neighbor Michael Jaynes stood on his lawn one recent frosty evening, marveling at the effect Park's home has had on the street where he has lived for 20 years.

"We all want to do a little better," said Jaynes, a movie industry truck driver whose goal was to simply replace the dead bulbs on the lights lining his roof. "It's not a competition thing. It's let's lift us all up by adding a little bit more."

While not personally joining in, Denes said he still enjoyed the "pretty colored lights" on neighbors' homes.

Stan and Shirley Larson, residents for 35 years, say they've never strayed from putting up a simple strand of outdoor bulbs and have no desire to match Park's display.

"To me, it's too much," said Shirley Larson.

"I'd never go through all the stuff they go through," added her husband. "It's wonderful, but it takes too long."

Park's labor of yuletide cheer takes six weeks to complete and requires the help of her 63-year-old husband and two workers. The artificial snow went in Wednesday, as it always does two days before Christmas.

Park, 61, said she typically finishes the decorations that consume both the inside and outside of her house at 3 a.m. Christmas Day, two hours before the arrival of her 10 grandchildren.

She shrugs off the added cost to her electric bill as "no more than the air conditioner in the summer."

Mike Rozman, 30, who moved to Schoolcraft Street two years ago with his wife, Karen, said they've been increasing the scope of their outdoor light show each year within the constraints of their budget and time.

"I would put up as much as I could, but I just don't have that kind of time," said Rozman, who this year added trendy icicle lights to his roof. "I pretty much admire (Park's display) -- the creativity, the artistic touch. I don't think people would put as much effort (into decorations on this street) without it. It has a sort of spreading effect."

Copyright 2006
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

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