- The Washington Times - Friday, December 24, 1999

Some gawkers drive by slowly once and others stop their cars each night to look at the spectacle on Route 27 in Damascus, Md., but the wondrous sight has yet to reach its climax, its creator says.
Friday night, on Christmas Eve, a rear projection screen will be added to the 45,000 lights and assorted ornaments on Donald H. Suhaka's lawn.
Through the window of his family room Mr. Suhaka will put on a show especially designed for children or the kid he believes still lives in many Christmas-inspired adults like himself.
"I'm 45 and graying and a lay minister in my church, but in my heart I get more enjoyment out of this than anything else," said the management consultant who has been expanding and changing his one-yard extravaganza since he started it 10 years ago.
The Christmas Eve production features images of Santa Claus and the next night, on Christmas, the show focuses on the birth of Jesus at a Bethlehem stable some 2,000 years ago.
The work is painstaking. Mr. Suhaka and his children tape every bulb to keep lines on the roof and stripes on the candy canes straight. It takes about 50 hours.
While that sounds like a lot, time-savers such as keeping some light strings in trees year-round, have cut the hours spent by about 30 even though he changes the display a bit each year.
His wife is the one who does all the work in January when it's time to take most things down.
One thing Mr. Suhaka hasn't trimmed is his electric bill which runs about an extra $10 a day or an extra $300 overall for the roughly 30 days he illuminates his handiwork.
Still he, his wife and children look forward to doing it as their "gift to the community," he said.
After the display reached 25,000 lights a few years back, the Suhakas got a gift.
So the family could turn on a clothes iron or run the microwave oven without shutting down the show, an electrician friend wired a separate switch box for the yard lights a job Mr. Suhaka said would have cost about $1,500 if they'd had to pay for it.
He said only about one in a 100 cards and notes they get about the decorations are complaints.
One fan even enclosed some cash to help with the light bill, Mr. Suhaka said.
Could the distraction be a hazard on such a busy road, even though it's near a stoplight?
"We've never had an accident when the lights are on," Mr. Suhaka noted.
With so many well-decorated yards along Route 27 is there a contest going on?
"I think more people have gotten into the spirit of it," Mr. Suhaka said.
"My dream and Pepco's dream, I'm sure would be to someday have 20 homes decorated like this," Mr. Suhaka said.
Tiffany Carter, 11, said she likes all the colors the Suhakas use.
Her parents like it, too.
"My husband tries to decorate our yard, but there's no way he can match them," said Tiffany's mother Paula.

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