EDMONTON – Picture if you will, thousands upon thousands of colourful, twinkling lights strung upon dozens of trees, walkways and a country house. Now add reindeer, snowmen, even Santa and his sleigh, and you might be able to begin to visualize the winter wonderland one Leduc County couple has made of their acreage.
“People don’t believe until they come out, how many lights are out here,” said Yvonne Ruel.
Yvonne and her husband, Doug Ruel, have turned five acres of land into a large Christmas display every year for the past 10 years. And every year, the display grows larger and larger.
“When he starts something, he just keeps going and going and going,” Yvonne said with a laugh.
What started as just a simple display for the couple’s family has, over the years, turned into a site to see for the entire community at Christmastime.
“We just couldn’t believe it when we came around the corner there,” said Linda Forre, who was visiting the site for the first time. “It’s wonderful. It’s just amazing.”
“In one word: fabulous. Outstanding. It’s just incredible what one person can really think to do. It’s just amazing,” said Ken Hale, who was out enjoying the display Thursday night.
Since its simple beginnings, the Christmas display has also become a major fundraiser for the Leduc & District Food Bank. Last year, over 7,000 pounds of food was collected.
“This makes a huge difference for us. We go through a lot of food,” said Gert Reynar, executive director of the Food Bank. “There’s a saying that one person can make a difference, and I think that this is a perfect example of what a difference one person can make.”
Doug, with the help of Leduc’s Junior B hockey team, begins decorating in October. And while they haven’t kept a exact count, Yvonne and Doug say they’ve likely spent over $100,000 on lights and decorations over the past 10 years; not to mention the skyrocketing power bill the couple receives each December.
So with the added cost and hard work, why do it? Doug says it’s all about bringing out the true meaning of Christmas in the community.
“I remember as a young boy, my dad belonged to the Legion. And I would go there and they would give you an orange and a bag and a few peanuts and have Santa Claus there. To this day, I’ve never forgotten it. To me, I’ll always cherish those memories,” Doug said.
So Doug wanted to make some fond Christmas memories for members of his own community, particularly the children.
“They come out here and one little guy said the other day ‘I’ve never seen so much Christmas.’ That means a lot,” he said with a smile. “Just to see people enjoy it- that’s what Christmas is about.”
“It brings Christmas back,” Yvonne added. “The really neat thing this fall was watching the look on our little granddaughter’s face when she first saw the lights.”
The Ruels have already started planning next year’s display, which will include at least 80 more decorated trees.
“I haven’t been called crazy yet,” Doug said with a laugh. “But I do, I love it. I wait for this all year.”
Beyond enjoying the beautiful lights, those who visit the site are offered hot chocolate and can even sit down for a visit with Santa Claus.
To get to the Ruel’s house from Leduc, head west on Highway 39 for five kilometres, then turn south on Range Road 260 for another five kilometres.
The lights turn on at 4:00 p.m. every evening. The display will continue until Friday, Jan. 3.
With files from Ross Neitz, Global News.