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North Georgians light up the night

Christmas light displays sprinkled throughout cities, counties

POSTED: December 24, 2013 1:00 a.m.

A little more than 10 years ago, three different Northeast Georgia families purchased or received a single item, leading them to start a Christmas tradition that continues to this day.

For Shawn and Angie Roberts, their purchase was their first home on Thompson Bend in Gainesville. Ever since then, the Roberts spend two days adorning it with lights, which now number about 10,000.

“I love Christmas and love Christmas lights,” Angie Roberts said, who noted she has five full-sized Christmas trees inside her home.

She explained she and her husband spend about two days putting up the lights the weekend before Christmas. Roberts said this year it took about nine hours on the first day and six hours on the second day.

Stringing the lights around her home and yard gives Angie Roberts the feeling of “absolute joy.” But her husband, Shawn, feels differently.

“He loves it once it’s up, but hates the working of doing it,” she said.

In a nearby North Hall neighborhood, John D. Prien Jr. doesn’t mind the work of putting up his Christmas decoration. Of course, he only puts up a single decoration in his yard, but it has sentimental value to him.

About 10 to 12 years ago, Prien and his wife, Joanne, were walking around a pottery place in Commerce when they came across a 4-foot-by-6-foot sign of Santa Claus and two reindeer. The couple purchased and revamped it before displaying it at their Bridgewater Drive house.

“I scaled it up with plywood sheeting and a pole, and she painted it,” Prien said. “She was such an accomplished artist.”

Each year the Priens displayed the sign they worked on together. And Prien continues that tradition despite losing his wife to cancer a handful of years ago.

“She was a wonderful person,” he said. “We put it up together every winter or Christmas ... It shows up beautifully in the daylight.”

Working together to set up their Christmas lights is an annual tradition for J.D. and Syble Brown of Dahlonega. And their tradition started with a single gift from their son-in-law about 10 years ago.

“He made me a wooden reindeer,” Syble Brown said. “And we just started adding and getting more every year.”

Of course, now she doesn’t even know the amount of lights on her house off Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 9 in Dahlonega. But she can point out her favorites on her 2-acre property.

“I like the Bible things,” she said. “I’ve got a few of those.”

Outside her home, she and her husband have spelled out the phrases “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Peace of Earth.” But her decorations are not limited to the biblical references.

Gingerbread men are swimming in one of their ponds. Snowmen are skating on another pond. And deer are sprinkled along the mountainside.

“We went up the side of the mountain and put deer on it,” Brown said. “And we have lights down the side and trickles onto tree branches, so it looks like a waterfall.”

She said it takes her and her husband about a month to set up the lights.

For Gainesville resident Jim Joninas, it only took him three or four days to decorate the front of his home. However, he had help decorating his two large trees in his backyard.

“We have a landscaping service and they do the tree and put up lights for me,” Joninas said, noting at 67 years old he really should not be climbing ladders. “They used a 10-foot ladder and 30-foot pole to put up the lights.”

Joninas pointed out his backyard tree in the Cresswind gated community can be seen from Browns Bridge Road. He said he adorns the large trees because of his upbringing.

“We are from New York and everybody does everything bigger in New York,” he said. “And I do it for the Christmas spirit.”


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