|
|
Examiner
  • Chicago Street lights display in 27th year

  • To understand just how long Steve Steiner has been doing the wildly successful Chicago Street Christmas Lights display in Blue Springs, there’s no better example than what happened to him earlier this month.

    • email print
  • To understand just how long Steve Steiner has been doing the wildly successful Chicago Street Christmas Lights display in Blue Springs, there’s no better example than what happened to him earlier this month.
    “A new owner of a home on Walnut Street bought a house that was foreclosed on, and I went over to talk to him one day,” Steiner said, taking a break Wednesday from his work of finishing touches.
    “And I told him I had a key for his garage door opener. He just looked at me, you know, and I told him what we do every year and he said he wanted to be a part of it, he said he’d give me a new key once he replaced it.”
    That’s a common occurrence for Steiner, who’s been rigging up about 60 different properties on a three-quarter-mile route beginning on Walnut Street since 1982.
    The display begins at Missouri 7 and Walnut Street and extends east to Fourth Street, south to Chicago Street, east to First Street, south to South Avenue, and then back west toward Missouri 7.
    When the lights come on tonight, it will be the 27th year. And in all that time, thousands of people have come from throughout the metropolitan area to look at them, to drive slowly and break softly so that each display can be seen and regarded thoughtfully and quietly.
    “People consider it a tradition,” Steiner said. “I’m always amazed at how much people enjoy it.”
    Steiner estimates that as many as 75,000 people drive through the display each year. Beginning Thanksgiving night at 5:30 p.m., the displays are kept on through Dec. 31 and taken down two days later.
    Throughout the years, Steiner, an electrician, has built and maintained hundreds of display figures, each one building on a theme. For example, on the north end of Fourth Street, there’s the Christmas Toyland display with animals, trains, singers, fountains, while on Chicago Street visitors can see the traditional Christmas themes.
    It works as all complicated efforts work: cooperation. Each yard display is tied into the residents electricity box via timers, which Steiner supplies.
    The timers go on at 5:30 p.m., the people look and cherish, and they shut off after midnight.
    There are no new displays this year, Steiner said.
    “This year was mostly about replacing and repairing,” he said, adding that he started around Nov. 2 and, surprisingly, finished a little ahead of schedule. “I was surprised at that.”
    While the display isn’t solely about money, donations for several local charities and efforts are accepted. As much as $15,000 was raised last year.
    As many as 30 organizations are scheduled to collect donations during the event, including five Scout troops, the Community Services League, several churches, various civic clubs and a local 4-H club. In January, the money raised during the month is split evenly among all the participants.
    Page 2 of 2 - “For some, this helps a lot,” Steiner said.
    Steiner said he doesn’t expect people to give less this year because of the ailing economy.
    “It’s always been my experience that the poor people give more than the wealthy,” he said. “You see this really nice cars drive up and not give, while the guy with the old car gives you a five. You think to yourself that he needs it just as much, but they give. So many people are generous during the holiday season.”
    Helping Steiner are several volunteers, some of whom, teenagers back from college, helping for the first time.
    “When you help with this, you really experience just how big it is and how much work goes into it,” he said. “Walking from one end  of the route to the other is quite a workout.”
    And that begs the question – how much longer is Steiner willing to do all this work?
    “As long as I can.”

        calendar