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Gainesville father makes family tradition of tacky Christmas light display

POSTED: December 16, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Travis Germick and his two sons have spent more than 10 years perfecting the art of the "tacky" Christmas light display.

What started simply enough with just a twinkling string of lights on the gables has morphed into a holiday wonderland of inflatable Santas and snowmen, cutout elves and nearly 12,000 lights.

Germick credits the movie "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation" with the inspiration for the light display.

In the movie starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, the over-enthusiastic father strings enough lights on his house to cause a brown out across town and blind his pretentious, Scrooge-like neighbors. But standing with his wife and kids as he flips the switch is a momentous occasion relived bigger and better each year.

After watching the movie with his wife, Germick decided that was the kind of real-life Christmas memory he wanted to give his three children.

Every year when the stores marked down the prices, Germick would buy a few more lights and decorations.

"I picked up a good deal on lights on Craigslist one time, and that sort of made it into what it’s become today," Germick said.

Not only is he creative, he’s thrifty when it comes to his Christmas decorations.

He and his sons have made several of the displays themselves. Some of the displays he’s proudest of include a life-sized sleigh, and a two-story playhouse that has been made to look like Santa’s workshop.

Looking through the upstairs window of the workshop, Santa can be seen holding mistletoe and stealing a kiss from Mrs. Claus.

Germick said it’s important to him to teach his sons how to create the decorations for themselves. It helps them to become more confident in their abilities and teaches them how to solve problems.

Germick’s oldest son, Austin Germick, 18, said the holiday tradition felt like a lot of work when he was a young kid.

Now that he’s older, each string of lights and 12-foot-tall PVC candy cane he carries out of their basement has the weight of nostalgia. The candy canes are a point of pride, having made them himself several years ago.

"Every year we go down into the basement and bring everything up. I always forget we have certain things," Austin said.

Putting up the lights usually takes a solid weekend to finish. This year it took four days.

Austin said it feels good to spend the day with his dad and brother. Though he isn’t leaving for college next year, the inevitable future of moving away from home makes the moments more sentimental.

Mitchell Germick, 13, said he’s always enjoyed putting up lights and never considered the tradition "work."

Once all the strings of lights were untangled and tested, the three Germick men set to work, each working on a specific area of the yard.

Mitchell admits he’s pretty good at lining the driveway, but for years he’s had much higher aspirations.

"When I was younger I always wanted to get up on the roof," Mitchell said.

While some people might find they’re more afraid of heights than they thought they would be, Mitchell is certainly not among them.

"I thought it was awesome," he said laughing.

By the time the lights have all been assembled, the Germicks have a light display to rival that of the Griswold’s.

The only problem, said Travis Germick, is that more people aren’t able to enjoy his family’s labor of love because they just don’t know it’s there.

"The thing is, I live in the very back of our neighborhood. All our neighbors know about it ... but nobody outside the neighborhood, unless they get in there and get turned around, comes across it," Germick said.

So this year they registered their house on www.tackylighttour.com, a website that allows families to locate the best light displays in town and to plan trips to see "insanely" decorated homes and businesses.

"You can pay money to go see some big-time light displays, but there is nothing greater that my family and I have done than driving around people’s neighborhoods looking at displays and drinking eggnog," Travis Germick said.


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