A Christmas tradition: Stafford lights continue to shine for the holidays

Dec 20, 2016

While everyone else may think Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, children from the area know better; St. Nick lives at 9180 Fargo Road in Stafford.

"Anyone who comes here says, 'This is where Santa Claus lives,'" said Jim DiSalvo, who owns and lives in the house with his wife, Connie. He even showed a Christmas wish list a child had placed in their mailbox addressed to St. Nick.

While the children may know the Fargo Road home the best as Santa Claus’ home, the adults know it better as the home with the enormous, walkable light display.

The DiSalvos have been running the Christmas lights for the past 18 years, and Connie said a lot of the people who come now used to come as children, and are now bringing their own kids.

"It's well known now," Jim said. "A lot of people get a lot of joy out of it."

Last year, Jim helped a young man propose to his girlfriend by setting up a sign which read, "Will you marry me?"

"So what he does, he takes her out under the arch under the premise he's going to take a picture of her. Her back is to the sign, I'm behind a tree with a switch, and he walks around her and gets down on one knee, I hit the thing. A light comes on that says, 'Will you marry me?' and he proposed," he said.

The couple had numerous engagements and weddings at their house over the years.

The DiSalvos have been living at their 8,000 square foot home for the past 20 years, and putting up the light display for the last 18.

"That first year we moved here we came from a ranch house in (Batavia) and we had one box of lights," Connie said. The lights went across the front of the house, some bushes and a couple of columns at their old home. She said back at their old home, the couple didn’t even feel like their yard was big enough for a nativity scene. This sentiment quickly changed at their new home.

"(We had only been in the house for a couple of months, and) I walked down front, put the lights up and said, 'We're in trouble,'" Jim said with a laugh, adding what they had wasn't enough to cover one of the bushes which used to be in front of their home.

The two started adding lights over the years, gaining a sizeable collection.

The couple bought large, industrial grade lights — which are more commonly found in front of businesses or run by municipalities — currently having about 50 in total.

"We have an electrician — Jeff Gillard, he's local — and he's instrumental in the movement of the lights when the music is on and the lights are flashing," Jim said.

The couple also has two full-time maintenance workers and bring on three more in September when they start putting the lights up.

There is a mile and a half of underground cable in addition to 200 extension cords. There are over 100 spotlights that highlight different characters.

"There are five, 200 amp services (powering the lights); that would equivalent to having five houses across the front yard," Jim said. "A normal house gets a 200 amp service."

"And they're seasonal," Connie added.

The service is turned on the week before Thanksgiving and turned off on Jan. 3.

The lights may go on at Thanksgiving Day, but the second Tuesday in December is Kid’s Day when the couple draws one of its biggest crowds. This year the DiSalvos estimate about 1,000 people showed up to the event.

Their nephew, Sam DiSalvo, organizes the event. Connie says the groups tour around for about an hour to an hour and a half before they come into the garage for hot chocolate and cookies, and stand in line to see Santa and Mrs. Claus.

They went through about 600 cups of hot chocolate and around 500 goodie bags to the children this year.

"How this started was 18 years ago that summer our nephew Sam brought his Boy Scout troop out to do a nature walk in the summer. When the second Tuesday in December came, he always took his troop to carol at the Genesee County Nursing Home," Connie said. During this time, Sam asked while they were out if they could stop at the house to carol for the couple as a thank you allowing them to do the nature work.

"He said, 'While we are here, would it be OK if I took the boys and walked around?' because by that time we had some figures down by the other side of the bridge," she continued. "Then the next year, he said, 'Hey, some of the other troops heard we walked around the lights.'"

After that it was the Girl Scouts who wanted to walk around before it went to the Scout Council and eventually scouts from all over were coming down to walk around the lights. Now anyone who wants to come look at the lights on that day — and on any day — can.

"Friday and Saturday night is probably the two most busiest nights," Jim said. "In the middle of the week it’s not unusual to have 500, 600 people."

The last day for lights will be on Jan. 1.