Nov 27, 2019
Tim Adams was bundled against a frigid wind last Friday as he affixed Christmas lights outside at the Red Osier Landmark Restaurant.
It was no easy task in the cold and chill — just a few more bulbs in what will ultimately be more than 2.5 million Christmas lights inside the building and throughout the property.
Why do Adams and Steve Foster, who co-own the restaurant, do it? Why go through the months of planning, set-up and labor?
The answer’s fairly simple and goes way beyond mere business.
“The Red Osier always used to do nice Christmas displays since I can remember,” Foster said. “The last few years they went a little bit low because they knew they were selling and whatnot, and we decided we were going to give them back.”
One of the other families in town known for their Christmas lights had likewise indicated they were going to scale back.
“So we were like, you know what, we’re going to make up for it,” Foster said. “People come to Stafford to see Christmas lights whether it’s DiSalvos or us, and that’s kind of how we started making it so elaborate.”
Labor of Love
This marks the fourth consecutive Adams and Foster have been creating the holiday extravaganza.
Planning begins in September and they do the vast majority of the work themselves.
Inside the restaurant’s bar this year is a lushly lit holiday tribute to the Buffalo Bills in red — it’s been retweeted on social media by the team and even caught “Good Morning America’s” attention.
As for the outside?
It’s a plethora of multi-colored Christmas lights which decorate the restaurant and are part of themed displays throughout the property.
The sheer number of lights becomes staggering and the holiday themes evoke everything from Christmas trees to the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” television special.
“The first year was a million,” Foster said. “The second years was close to 2 million. Last year was 2.5 million and this year it’s more than 2.5 million because we’ve just been keeping adding on and on and on.”
As of last Friday, the Red Osier’s interior was complete, and Foster and Adams estimated the outside was about 90 percent done.
The outside takes about four to six weeks — depending on the weather, Adams said, laughing.
How’s this year been going? “Awful,” Adams said humorously. “The snow really put a damper on things, so we’re about a week behind in getting all the lights on.”
They still needed to complete the window boxes, two carriages and a rental house on the property.
“Tim meticulously plans the outside, exactly where each piece is going to go,” Foster said. “It’s called ‘The Winter Wonderland of Lights,’ so literally when people are driving by or walking through, it’s a scene.
“And then inside, the bar is done differently every single year,” he continued. “There’s a theme every year and this year it’s Buffalo Bills. I start planning that probably in late September and start getting the stuff for it and whatnot ... This year was difficult with Buffalo Bills, because there’s not a lot of Buffalo Bills Christmas stuff out there, so you’ve got to kind of make things, and make it work.”
The restaurant’s employees get involved too, helping out along the way.
And even bad weather can pose a few positives. Foster said recent high winds allowed them to confirm everything was placed properly and could survive the elements.
The overall effect is a dose of Christmas and holiday spirit that extends beyond mere lights, with several activities ongoing and planned.
“The first two Mondays in December are the third annual Community Days,” Foster said. “That’s where we open up the restaurant for free. They can come take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus for free. We have free horse and carriage rides throughout the Christmas lights.
“We have a petting zoo this year,” he continued. “We have the Stafford Fire Department bringing their fire trucks down — they’re going to do traffic control. We’ll have our lunch cart out there, so if people do want food, they can purchase it. We’ll have the bar open, so if somebody wants a cocktail, or to get a gift certificate or whatnot.
“It’s pretty much a free event to the community. If they want to spend money, they can spend money. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to.”
The event runs 4 to 8 p.m. both days.
The Red Osier Landmark Restaurant is also conducting its annual “Lovember” fundraiser, which is supporting WNY Heroes, Crossroads House, Knight’s Closet and the Le Roy Food Pantry, along with two Boces scholarships in culinary arts and metal trades.
As for the restaurant’s staff, Adams and Foster also host a Nerf gun war amid the lights.
But they do have their favorite moments.
Foster — a big Bills fan — naturally likes the Buffalo Bills room this year,
“It has been tweeted with the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Bills have commented on it, it’s been shared to ‘Good Morning America,’” he said. “It’s pretty much going viral which is a cool thing, because you put a lot of hard work into it.”
Adams likes the two newest additions outside — the Toy Factory and Santa’s Workshop.
“They’re both out there on the hill next to each other and they’re huge,” he said. “You really notice them.”
And, of course, there’s simply seeing people enjoying the lights and displays. Which makes all the hard work, the labor and perfectionism worth it.
“As soon as the first light goes on, our parking lot is a revolving parking lot,” Foster said. “People love it. We want people to come through and drive through.
“Yes, we’d love to have them come and have dinner and experience the inside too, but it’s just as nice going outside, driving through the parking lot, all day, all night,” he continued.
“One of our employees rents the house next door from us and she said all throughout the night people are just going through.”