No contest, no problem

For nearly 26 years Henke has slowly added to his Christmas light collection and what his children thought was “pretty neat” when he started, they now think he’s a bit crazy.

Standing in front of his house and next to his favorite display, Santa Claus on a motorcycle, Randy Henke, looks forward to the possibility of the Brighten Baxter holiday lighting contest expanding one day. Contributed / Randy Henke

Hearing of the Brighten Baxter holiday lighting contest, Randy Henke was ready; his years of preparing, planning and hard work were about to shine through.

Henke had only one problem, he lives in Backus.

Still, that wasn’t going to stop him from putting on a display for everyone to enjoy. It’s in his nature — Henke has been working at his Christmas light display for over two decades.

“I started doing them when we moved into Prior Lake,” Henke said. “I just started with some standard lights and just told my kids — I have three kids — that I was going to do something special for them, and I keep adding every year.”


For nearly 26 years Henke slowly added to his Christmas light collection. While his children thought it was “pretty neat” when he first started, they now think he’s a bit crazy with all the lights and planning he puts into his masterpieces.

Moving from Prior Lake to Backus five years ago, Henke said he has been trying out different setups for his displays as the first couple of years were a bit more challenging with the new home.

Randy Henke's house all lit up for Christmas. Denton Newman / Brainerd Dispatch

“I've been kind of adding and testing out the waters up here with the type of trees in the yard,” Henke said. “So every year it keeps getting bigger and I keep putting more stuff out.”

Henke said that in the beginning, he was keeping track of how many lights he would put out but the number became too big to keep track of.

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Over the years, Henke’s received help and donations from friends, family and most notably, his neighbors.


“We do have a Santa Claus on a motorcycle — a Harley,” Henke said. “In Prior Lake, somebody in the neighborhood dropped it off at our door with a note on it saying that they thought I would be able to use it more than they could because we also ride motorcycles.”

Randy Henke has spent 26 Christmas's slowly building his collection, though moving to Backus has him looking to build some new displays. Denton Newman / Brainerd Dispatch

Not expecting to put the lights down anytime soon, Henke is looking to build a gingerbread house and put a bunch of little ginger men around it or possibly put a Santa Claus in a sleigh and run a cable to make it look as though he’s flying before next Christmas.

Henke said, after all these years, he still handles all of the prep work and setup of the displays.

“This is a hobby for me,” Henke said. “I just like to do it for people who enjoy Christmas lights because I enjoy doing it.”

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email .


Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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