Lighting up Clovis: How residents of Cindy Lane prepare for Christmas

(CR Photo)

If all was quiet during the week of Thanksgiving in the Clovis neighborhood known simply as Cindy Lane, there’d be cause for worry: worry that the city’s signature Christmas lights display may have been canceled.

Thankfully, that was not the case this year, and residents were anything but settled down for a long winter’s nap as Thanksgiving approached. Everyone was stirring, even the mice—which, if there are any, are probably robotic, decked out in LED lights, and perched on a lawn in an elaborate holiday lights display.

For nearly 20 years, the lights displays in the neighborhood—which is situated on the northwest corner of Peach and Alluvial avenues and consists of around 100 homes—have been Clovis’ impromptu answer to cross-town rival Christmas Tree Lane.

“People on Cromwell started decorating en masse. That’s kind of where it started,” said Ron Smith, a resident of the neighborhood for 23 years. “And then after two or three years, most everybody on Cromwell did it and people started coming in and looking at it.”

Smith said the displays started as an “organic deal” and five years in, pretty much everyone was participating.

The neighborhood’s festive reputation has grown over the years, attracting thousands of visitors during December and even luring new residents who want to be a part of the decorating fun year after year.

That’s what led Catherine Ghan and her husband to buy a home in the neighborhood—also known as Candy Cane Lane—in July.

“I’ve always wanted to live in this neighborhood. So this is kind of like a dream come true for me,” Ghan said. “But I didn’t realize how many lights I would actually need.”

Ghan said she had to buy between 1,500 and 2,000 more lights to complete her family’s first display on the Lane. Being a first-timer, she’s feeling the pressure of living up to the neighborhood’s reputation.

“It’s self-made pressure. I feel like I have so much space that I have to fill it…I don’t want to disappoint anybody driving by,” she said.

Although, the set-up process comes with stresses, there are no set rules for how or when to start decorating. Or what to include in the displays.

Unofficially, the day after Thanksgiving is when decorating in the neighborhood begins. This year, several houses had elaborate lawn displays set up more than a week before Thanksgiving. Snowmen silhouettes and candy cane skeletons looked eerie in the mid-November sunshine.

So what does it take to prepare the holiday displays? It’s a different process for each resident.

After six years in the neighborhood, Mark, who lives in the heart of it all on Cromwell, said he’s got his set-up “down to a science.”

“I know what lights fit on the roof. I know what lights fit around the yard,” he said. “I’ll put on a string of lights, have a beer, relax, watch a football game.”

Ron Smith said it takes him days to set up his display, but that it’s remained mostly the same over the years.

“It changes a little bit, mostly it’s been the same,” Smith said. “Things stop working so you buy something new. You know, you find something, ‘oh, that’s cute,’ we’ll get that, add that.”

A pair of lighted palm trees, a gift from his former neighbors, the previous owners of Ghan’s house, were added to Smith’s display a few years ago.

“Unspoken” or “unofficial” are words used often by residents to describe how the neighborhood operates this time of year.

“I guess the whole idea of this neighborhood is everybody just does what they want and that’s like the tradition here. It’s not like it’s led by one person,” Ghan said. “The great thing about this neighborhood is you do what you want and everybody just celebrates.”

As the new kid on the block, Ghan has stepped up to create something official for the neighborhood that’s all about being hands-off: a Facebook page. Participating in the Christmas season’s festivities may be voluntary for residents, but Ghan hopes the new online presence will be a source of information for visitors.

“I started it just because I realized that there wasn’t a place for people to go and check in or check to see when it has started. I thought it was important for people to have a place to go to find that information,” Ghan said.

People began visiting the neighborhood by the carload and on foot Dec. 1. And with clear exit strategies and parking plans in place, residents are excited to watch visitors enjoy the lights this year.

“It’s always exciting to see…we’ll get the limousines from the old folks homes, tour buses, the horse-drawn carriages, people walking the neighborhood,” Mark said.

Ghan isn’t sure what to expect from her first Christmas season on the Lane, but she’s excited. After all, it’s the reason she moved to the neighborhood.

“We’ve heard the stories…’you might want to park your car out on the street.’ We really aren’t prepared for that just yet. We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “I just love this time of year. I love being in this neighborhood. I’m just happy I’m here.”

But, for all the prep that goes into putting on one of the best light shows in the Valley, come Christmas day, the lights come down…unofficially, of course.

“Literally, Christmas day, you can go through this neighborhood and almost everything is being picked up,” Smith said. “Once Christmas is over, it’s gone.”

So check out the lights while you can. The residents of Cindy Lane are excited to see you.

“Bringing joy to other people,” Ghan said, is what it’s all about.