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Holiday Lights: The lakes area lit up with holiday spirit

Carol Avenue in Detroit Lakes is renamed Candy Cane Lane for the Holidays. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

'Tis the season to enjoy Christmas lights, and for those who like to decorate their homes, the time and money spent is a holiday gift to their families and the whole community.

John Mitchell, of 1315 Lake Ave., in Detroit Lakes has always enjoyed decorating for Christmas.

He and his wife, Jody, have a houseful of four grandkids ages 3 to 9, and John keeps them in the Christmas spirit with lights and decorations inside and out.

"I like getting into the spirit of things," he says, "and the kids enjoy it."

Their small yard is filled with inflatables -- a Christmas train, Santa on a motorcycle, porch pillars lit with spiraling red and white lights like candy canes, hedges and trees hung with lights.

"If we get any more, I'll have to get a bigger yard," John jokes.

An inflatable Santa in a car sits ready to race down the garage roof, and a star of colorful bulbs rises on a pole from the chimney to shine over the house.

A bulb is burned out on the star, and it's going to stay that way until summer.

"With the pitch of the roof, it's tricky," John said. "With the snow and ice, I'm not going up there until it's warm."

The inside of the home it lit by a large Christmas tree, with Christmas knickknacks on walls and shelves, but until this year, spiraling rows of Christmas lights were hung on fishing line throughout the house.

"It usually takes about three days to do the inside," John said.

But not this year.

"He was trying to stay simple," Jody said, laughing at the thought.

While John has been replacing and adding to his decorations for years, he's one of the few to decorate on that end of the block.

Not so for Candy Cane Lane -- almost everyone on Carol Avenue has put up lights and decorations this year, as they have for more than 25 years.

"We've decorated since 1981," said Vernon Herman. "We first started with candy canes -- we painted stove pipe white and wrapped red ribbons around them to make candy canes."

He and his wife, Jan, live at 1521 Carol Ave., with a lighted Santa on the roof, a poinsettia on one side and a yard full of lights and decorations -- including a painted wooden elf with their last name on it.

The houses on Carol Avenue have identical elves, all made by the Herman's son, Jim, the year after the candy canes made their appearance.

The idea for Candy Cane Lane came from Jan and Lane Campbell, who moved to Carol Avenue from out-of-state.

"They had a Candy Cane Lane where they came from, and they were the instigators for Candy Cane Lane here," said Vernon.

Neighbors have come and gone, but all so far have left the candy canes and elves behind for the new owners, who add their own last names to the signs.

"That was the stipulation," Vernon said. "If anybody moved out they were to leave the candy cane and the elf -- so far everybody has done that."

Which isn't to say that the decorations haven't had a few adventures over the years, courtesy of pranksters.

"One time I had to go to Lake Park to get one of the candy canes," Vernon said. "Another time one was found stuck in a snowbank by the Holiday gas station. But we've been fortunate -- we've hardly had any vandalism here."

Perhaps that's because Carol Avenue is tucked away in a quiet part of Detroit Lakes off Legion Road.

The easiest way to get there is to take Legion Road to Gary Avenue, which still has several houses that celebrate Holiday Lane, with painted wooden snowmen instead of elves.

Take a left at the end of Gary Avenue to get to Carol Avenue.

If you decide to take a look, you'll be in good company.

"It's unbelievable how many people come by," Vernon said. "You can tell they're light-lookers, they just crawl by."

For those who decorate for the season, it's just a colorful way of telling those who pass by to "have a merry Christmas," said Jody Mitchell.