On a day that Kodiak saw just six and a half hours of daylight, bright green lights in the shape of a Christmas tree and multicolor strands of lights illuminate the Stark home.
“It’s so dark, it’s nice to brighten everything up,” said Missy Stark as she placed her 8-month-old in a bouncy swing. Her 20-month-old son flips through books on the floor. Elvis Presley plays in the background.
It takes Stark’s husband several days to get everything up and running, but she says they believe the work is worth it, because it makes their three children happy.
A lot of Kodiak Island residents must agree. Even a short drive through town is rewarded by home after home with sparkling lights, animated Christmas and movie characters and Nativity scenes.
Ben Craig likes to add a political touch to all of his projects. For a seafood cook-off during the George W. Bush years, he made “White House halibut,” complete with a side of “Condoleeza rice.”
This year’s Christmas decorations are no different. In bright white lights, backed by bright white particleboard, all capital letters spell out “TRUMP.”
“I didn’t think it was going to be so bright,” joked Tracy Craig, Ben’s wife.
“About half the people like it and half don’t,” Ben said, but it’s all in good fun. “I thought it would be funny. I definitely don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
The Craigs’ daughter has a slightly different take on the lights.
“It is a very well built sign,” she said, and the family laughs. “That is my only comment on the sign.”
Across town, Dave Hilty has recently completed a work of art, with Christmas lights forming an elaborate crab boat. The boat deck is filled with shining faux Christmas gifts.
Hilty creates his designs through trial and error, he said. If a string of lights doesn’t look quite right, he takes it down and tries again.
“It’s an amazing labor of love each year,” wrote Heather Johnson, Hilty’s wife. “It’s his way of saying ‘merry Christmas’ to all of Kodiak.”
Last year, Hilty created a seiner. Before that, it was Christmas trees. He tries to come up with concepts the community can relate to, he said.
While the meter wheel may not be spinning Clark Griswold-style, Hilty said he does see an uptick in electricity use this time of year.
For the most part, lights in town are set up by individual residences or business. However, organized efforts seem to be gaining in popularity.
A break from rain and snow made for good turnout at this year’s Harbor Lights Festival, sponsored by the Kodiak Maritime Museum.
The Lions Club, the city of Kodiak and the Baranov Museum joined forces to illuminate a tree in Sargent Park downtown. Kodiakans sipped hot chocolate and munched on crispy, fresh popcorn and cookies at the lighting ceremony in November.
Bell’s Flats is joining the action, as well, and the Womens Bay Community Council is upping the ante for the second year with the annual Bell’s Flats Lights Festival.
According to WBCC board president Breanna Peterson, the Bell’s Flats festival includes a competition, with two council members judging contestants on presentation. The winning residence will receive prizes from Rendezvous and Java Flats.
The contest is informal, she said, and anyone who would like to enter can do so in the Bell’s Flats Community Facebook group, or by emailing email@example.com.
“Our ultimate goal is not necessarily to create some competitive type event to have the best house, but more just to have a lot of houses lit up so people can drive around and just celebrate the season,” Peterson said.
Kodiak Electric Association communications specialist Nancy Sweeney said there is no way to identify a community-wide uptick in electricity usage due to Christmas lights.
“During this season with the longest nights and the darkest days of the year, many people increase their use of regular indoor and outdoor lighting in general, and are likely cooking and entertaining more all the way through Russian Christmas,” she wrote in an email.
Even with the extra usage, salmon and pollock processing seasons continue to see the highest demand for electricity, according to Sweeney.
LED lights have helped decrease the amount of electricity used to light Christmas decorations, she said.