Not long after Ed Cooper’s family moved into their Independence house, he pointed to the side with the two garage doors and two bedroom windows and made a strong, yet confusing, statement.



“There’s Santa’s face,” Ed’s wife, Andrea, remembered her husband saying.  



“I was like, ‘What do you mean there’s Santa’s face?’” Andrea recalled. “I literally didn’t get it.”

Not long after Ed Cooper’s family moved into their Independence house, he pointed to the side with the two garage doors and two bedroom windows and made a strong, yet confusing, statement.

“There’s Santa’s face,” Ed’s wife, Andrea, remembered her husband saying.  

“I was like, ‘What do you mean there’s Santa’s face?’” Andrea recalled. “I literally didn’t get it.”

But then Ed Cooper took the idea from his mind and put it on the side of his home. Several years after his first creation, the Coopers’ house at 16500 E. 28th Place in central Independence is the winner of The Examiner’s seventh annual Holiday Lights Contest, sponsored by Independence Power & Light. A $200 Simon Malls card was this year’s top prize.

Ed and Andrea’s daughter, Ashley Cooper, said her house is well-known among her friends and classmates.

“If people ask, ‘Where do you live?’ I say, ‘Um, have you seen the Santa House?’” said Ashley, a 13-year-old seventh grader at Pioneer Ridge Middle School.

This marks the third year that Ed has put up the Santa face – but some did notice Santa’s absence in 2010 when Ed skipped a year. An anonymous letter was dropped in the Coopers’ mailbox, saying, “We missed the Santa House.”  

The “Santa House” has somewhat of an unorganized fan club across Independence. On Tuesday, the Cooper family received a card in the mail addressed to “The Santa House Elves.” It contained an image of the side of their house, photographed unknowingly.

The Independence residents – strangers to Ed’s family – wrote, “Dear Independence Elves, Just to say ‘Yes!’ to the best Christmas lights in town. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.”

That card was mailed before the Coopers even knew they had won this year’s Holiday Lights Contest.

A friend of Ed’s has a friend who stopped by the Coopers’ home, took a picture of the Santa face image and posted the photograph on Facebook.

The face has grown in its short lifetime. In its first year, the triangle-shaped portion of the house that makes up Santa’s hat was only partially covered in actual red lights. Ed used spotlights from the corners, then, to give the illusion of the entire hat being red.

“I’m afraid of heights,” Ed said, laughing, “so I don’t exactly like doing this.”

His favorite part of the decorating is actually in the Coopers’ front yard, where lighted shapes, such as candy canes, a reindeer and several different sized Christmas trees, flash and blink in sync with multiple Christmas songs.

“The front is mine. I like the front,” Ed said. “Nobody else likes the front.”

For Santa’s “eyes,” each of the two bedroom windows contains a candle with a wreath around it. Many of the lights, such as the ones used to form Santa’s “hat” and the corners of his beard, are stapled to the house, while others like the white trim on his hat and the bulk of his beard, “dangle” from the house or are created with white icicle lights.

The Coopers’ side and front yard displays include more than 8,000 lights, which Ed is able to find easily since he is a manager at Lowe’s in Raymore. Eventually, he said, he wants to switch to LED lights, which have increased efficiency and light output.

“It’d be a whole lot cheaper,” Ed said, laughing.

Several weeks ago, a group of elementary school-aged children gathered around the largest of the lit trees in the Coopers’ front yard and danced for at least a half hour, even though the music that is in sync with the lights wasn’t turned on.

“I turned the music up,” Andrea said, “and they were just having the best time.”

The Coopers have two left behind souvenirs of the unknown children’s visit still in their front yard, waiting to be claimed: a scarf and a scooter.

Ed Cooper said he does it all for the kids.

“I like... like, all of it,” Ed’s son, 6-year-old Nathan, said of his favorite part.

But then again, Ed said, he also puts up the Santa House for the adults.

“We’ve kind of created a traffic jam every now and then out front,” Ed said.

“I’ll go to sleep every night,” Ashley said, “and I’ll see headlights and cars are lined up from across the street.”

Like Santa’s image, Andrea said she hopes visitors will be left with just one expression.

“They’ll smile,” she said.

“Yup, keep them smiling in the Christmas season,” Ed said, laughing. “That’s my retail spin.”