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‘For the neighborhood’

Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey Bell lights created circles of color on the sno1 / 4
Ben Magnan stood on his porch amid the lights and trimmings he pu2 / 4
A Nativity scene in the front yard at the Magnan home in Baxter.3 / 4
A wagon wheel trimmed with a string of lights and a glowing snowflake at the Mag4 / 4

Ben Magnan of Baxter has been adorning his home with Christmas decorations since he retired from service in the Navy in 1988. His current home on Forestview Drive South is bedecked with thousands of lights and other Christmas trimmings.

"I do it for the neighborhood. The kids wait for you to flip the lights on and neighbors have stopped to tell me it's an inspiration to them."

The lights go up just before the start of hunting season but it isn't lit up until the Thanksgiving party he and his wife Nimfa hold at their house. In the off season, the decorations are stored in a large shed on the property which currently is trimmed with lights and has a glowing Santa perched on the roof.

This level of decorating requires considerable effort. It takes two weeks for him to put everything up and it's harder to take them down. He's had another outlet installed to handle all the lights, "otherwise you blow a fuse - that happened this Thanksgiving." After a heavy snow he gets out his backpack-blower and dusts off the trees so the lights can shine through. Or if something breaks it can cause all the lights to go dark and that means going out into the cold and figuring out which one is the problem.

Sometimes he thinks about giving it up since he's getting older but "as long as someone gets enjoyment out of it, that's good enough for me. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun."

The display and layout is varied a little each year and Ben is always on the lookout for sales so he can add to his collection. This year a pine tree from their backyard went down in an ice storm. Not wanting to waste it, Ben moved it out front, propped it up and covered it in lights.

There is an equitable split in the holiday work at the Magnan household. Nimfa takes care of decorating the inside of the house. She's a little behind this year but she's not worried.

"I still have a week to put up the tree," she said with a smile.