Judging from a special preview of the lights at the Scandinavian Heritage Park on Friday night, one could easily assume it was the work of an efficient mob. In actuality, it was done entirely by two Bobs.
Bob Sando and Bob Whetter, Scandinavian Heritage Association volunteers, are the co-chairs for Christmas lights at the Scandinavian Heritage Park, and while it's a job well done, it's a job done well before Christmas starts.
"It's enough to drive you to aquavit," Sando laughed, referring to a strong Norwegian alcohol.
Jesse D. Watson/MDN
“These evergreens were just begging to be decorated,” Sando said, to Whetter’s agreement. They didn’t do quite all of them, but, Sando illuminated, “You have to stop somewhere. Otherwise, you’d be starting on the 4th of July.”
There are 250+ strings of lights, each of which Sando painstakingly tested. "It took me 7 full days to debug them," he said. Aquavit indeed.
After that, Sando and Whetter spent another 7-8 days putting them up. They had help from a city bucket truck for less than one of those days, just to get the strings of lights started on the taller trees.
"You can't use gloves for some of this either, you know," Whetter said, with a bit of a wince.
They use the same, small kind of consumer lights most of us use on our home Christmas trees. The bigger ones, used for many other large displays, simply draw too much power. "With the big ones, a bulb goes out, it's out. That's it," Sando contrasted. But, as we all know from experience, with the little lights, if one bulb is bad, the whole string fails. Anyone could be forgiven for aquavit dependency at that point.
While the park has been decorated for about 10 years running, the original chairs have retired. Whetter said he's been at it for about 6 years, Sando nearly as long.
Sando is a veteran of Christmas decorating. We have him to thank for building the displays used at Oak Park during the holidays. He has largely ended his days of building them in the summers to have them ready for winter, but he did concede to laboring on the First Lutheran Church, Minot State University, and MSU College of Business displays this year.
The lights at the Scandinavian Heritage Park are on timers, not just the Christmas lights but the security lights as well, both sets rigged just right so as not to conflict with each other. It's an intricate business.
"We had about 30 people helping one year," Whetter recalled.
"Yeah, they were just bumping into each other, though," Sando laughed, and said they spent most of their time that year just showing people how to do things. They appreciated the sentiment but found it's easiest to do the work themselves.
Whetter said they try not to light up the display before Thanksgiving. "We're not like the stores," he laughed, referring to shopping malls' habit of beginning Christmas seemingly earlier each year.
The lights will debut Thanksgiving Eve and will run until Feb. 1, 2013. They come on every night at 5 p.m. and turn off at midnight.