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Friday, December 7th, 2007

St. Marys home sparkles

Birt family's display has more than 40,000 lights, numerous life-sized wood cutouts

By Janie Southard

Paul and Deborah Birt's home east of St. Marys on County Road 33A features more. . .

ST. MARYS - Christmas came to Paul and Deborah Birt's house in a blaze of more than 40,000 lights sparkling throughout the couple's several acres east of town on County Road 33A.
Last weekend Paul and his sons thought they had the annual lighting completed but when Deborah got home Saturday they found out they weren't quite finished.
"When she drove in she decided she didn't like the red and green lights on our six apple trees. So we took them all down while she went out and bought 20 boxes of multi-coloreds and whites," Birt said. "Then everybody got busy restringing the small trees with the 3,000 new lights."
A mild-mannered guy, Birt told the newspaper earlier this week he thinks he's probably through hanging lights for this year, the 27th consecutive season for the Birts' big show. He and grown sons, James and David, begin the lighting process every year right after Halloween and turn them all on Thanksgiving afternoon.
It takes about two weeks, working after he gets home from his job at Ohio Decorative Arts in Spencerville and on weekends, to install the whole shebang. On New Year's Day, he and the boys begin getting all the lights, woodcut figures and other lit items ready for storage in the two old chicken coops out back.
"Taking them down is a lot easier now that I don't have to climb around on the ladder like I do putting them up," he said seated around the table in his cozy, Christmasy kitchen the evening before the snow arrived this week. "Wading around in snow really slows us down - high wind, too - like the other night. I had a lot of repairs to see to the next morning."
The big reason taking down the display is so much easier is that several years ago Birt created a device that cut take-down time by more than half. He attached a strong, bent wire to a 16-foot cane fishing pole and found he could stand on the ground and easily detach the light strings. Later he made a detacher with an 8-foot cane pole, so he's now good to go except for needing the ladder to take the lights off the house roof.
"Well, I knew there had to be an easier way, and sure enough ..." he said.
The Birts' Christmas display began in 1980 when Deborah suggested they put lights on a little Christmas tree outside. Over the past 27 years that little splurge has grown to 50 lighted standing pieces and 75 wood cutouts, including a full sized sleigh flanked by a group of carolers and street lights.
"She draws the patterns for most of them. Then I cut them out in my workshop and we both paint them," said Birt, whose favorite is the sleigh.
New this year is the life-size nativity with the Bethlehem skyline in the background along with three camels. The all-white scene is striking in the dark .
All the woodcuts were constructed in panels that can lie flat for storage. The lights are rolled as they come down. Then the rolls are taped and coiled into plastic tubs. The more than two miles of extension cords also are coiled into bins. Then everything goes into the coops for the next 10 months.
But for the next several weeks, the Birts can expect more and more people to pull off the road and admire the lighted Christmas scenes and, new this year, the recorded seasonal music.
"We don't mind a bit when folks stop by. Christmas is for everybody," Birt said.
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