By Emily Williams
Holiday light-lovers who take the Fresh Air Family’s annual Wacky Tacky Christmas Light Tour will witness two decades of tradition as they pass the legendary “Auburn House” on Beech Street in Mountain Brook’s Crestline neighborhood.
A crazy Christmas light display has been an undertaking for the Krawczyk family for nearly 20 years, inspired by Meg Krawczyk’s mother, Mary Ann Garrison.
Garrison wanted a light display that rivaled that of Clark Griswold from “Christmas Vacation.”
“She had a great sense of humor,” Craig Krawczyk said. “Everyone on her street had white lights and she said, ‘I don’t want a display with white lights. I want it to be tacky and bright.’”
After Garrison’s death in 2009, the family knew they were going to keep decorating.
“It was either going to be at our house or at my brother-in-laws and I wasn’t going to let him have it” Krawczyk said, so despite his wife’s hesitation, the display moved to their home.
As it is at their Beech Street home today, decorating is a family-wide undertaking. It requires the teamwork of the Krawczyks and their three children, along with Meg’s brother Sims Garrison.
An architect with Live Design Group, Krawczyk said the only plan he ever sticks to in this design is how many strings of lights can be plugged into each outlet.
It’s all about the lights at the Beech Street home – more than 30,000 of them. They are positioned across the entire front facade of the home, through shrubs, around tree trunks, across limbs, lining a make-shift gated path, and even spelling out “War Eagle” across the roof.
A small group of lawn ornaments dress the lawn, including a Nativity scene and an inflatable snow globe, among others.
Worth the Work
Krawczyk’s work usually begins on the weekend after Halloween, with a deadline to finish the job by the Saturday of the Iron Bowl.
“For the past 15 years we’ve been having a lighting ceremony and we usually draw a crowd,” he said. “This year we had about 200 people waiting in my driveway.”
In addition to a visit from Santa and a toy drive for the Salvation Army, Krawczyk pieced together a video presentation for this year’s event with clips of Christmas movies. Right as Clark Griswold’s decorations lit up in a clip from “Christmas Vacation,” the Beech Street light display turned on.
The tradition of creating the crazy light display has grown bigger than just a family tradition, Krawczyk said, it is a tradition for many people in the community.
“I get stopped all the time when I’m out in the community by people who want to tell me what a big part of their Christmas it is,” he said. “One person told me that it’s a tradition that they have to drive their kids by the house at night before they go to bed.”
Krawczyk loves that the lights have created traditions for others.
The lights turn on at 5:45 p.m. and cut off at 11:30 p.m. each evening until New Year’s Day.
Appreciation for the lights goes beyond neighbors and other nearby residents, with the annual Wacky Tacky Christmas Light Tour keeping it at the top of its list of houses to stop and view.
“We are excited about the return of the Auburn house,” said Verna Gates, founder and executive director of Fresh Air Family. “It was down for a year as the house was rebuilt. I love the utter randomness of that house.”
The annual two-hour guided bus tour takes place Dec. 11-13, with buses running every 10 minutes from Avondale Brewing Company. Tickets to ride are $33 for adults and $23 for children who are not members of the organization. Proceeds from the tour allow the organization to provide upwards of $43,500 in scholarships to children with financial needs who wish to attend the Fresh Air Family’s award-winning science camp, Gross Out Camp.
For more information, visit wackytacky.org.