The mix of cold, wet and windy weather has been a setback to some who string outdoor holiday lights in East Jefferson County.
This 16th edition of the annual Holiday Lights Tour prepared for the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader attempts to list the brightest, boldest and most easily seen outdoor displays.
The best are easy to find: right along the main highway in Port Townsend and in Quilcene.
Sadly, there seem to be fewer houses with outstanding outdoor displays than in years past (none on the 19th Street hill in Port Townsend, which up to this point has been a main attraction). Perhaps it's the economy, or our aging and changing population, or the recent streak of bad weather.
Still, people who want to go out and see Christmas light displays should be happy with the maps of Port Townsend and the Irondale/Port Hadlock area.
If we missed your display, we apologize. Folks who visit the displays marked on the maps should notice yours, too.
Our favorite this season is the combo, drive-through display by the Hoffman family and Chuck Thrasher and his Josephine Campbell Building. Combined, there are about 65,000 lights and about 50 figures and/or inflatables, and several musical scenes.
It is the ninth year of lights at the Hoffman property, and the second year of a collaboration with neighbors.
"We didn't really have a theme," Ashley Hoffman said of their big display "It just happened."
The Hoffmans start getting the display ready in September, and finished in November. A big help this year was Adam Boling, who strung lights on the Hoffman's 75-foot fir tree. (The tree lights, and some other pieces, had to be adjusted after last week's wind storm blew through).
Thrasher has about 10,000 lights on his property, all LEDs, and a combination of old and new display pieces. Two people worked eight hours a day for nine days to get the display ready, he said.
The drive-through display is open to the public from 5 to 8:30 p.m. every night through Jan. 1. Enter the special driveway (look for the sign by the candy canes) located between Logger’s Landing restaurant and the Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County store, which is in the Josephine Campbell Building.
During their posted hours, an elf is usually outside to hand out candy canes to visitors – the family distributed 2,000 candy canes last season.
The time, effort and estimated $300 power bill are well worth the joy it brings to their family and to visitors, Ashley Hoffman said.
Thrasher also encourages everyone to drive through the display, and maybe to stay a while in Quilcene.
"I encourage them to come and look and then to have dinner here in Quilcene," said Thrasher, a 12-year resident. He also has a quick response for people who may suggest his display is not environmentally friendly.
"This is my 11th year with Habitat for Humanity and I've worked on 18 houses," Thrasher said. "I recycle. I pick up garbage along the streets and highway here in Quilcene. I think I do my share."
There's a big change in Brinnon – no light display at Whitney Gardens and Nursery along Highway 101.
Once perhaps the largest collection of lights on the Olympic Peninsula, there is no big light display and no drive-through lane and no food bank donation box this year. The change is made to recognize Anne Sather, the owner who died Dec. 9, 2013 at the age of 100.
"The lights were already up last year so we kept it going, and this year we are keeping it dark in memoriam to my mother," said Ellie Sather. "We have a few lights but nothing like we usually do. We'll pick it up again next year."
There are four hotspots on our search through Irondale and Port Hadlock: all of them familiar.
Back again this season are neighbors on West Montgomery Street, just up the Irondale Road hill from the "Jesus is Lord" sign. Thanks to the Anderson and Hansen families, and friends, for their efforts.
Across Irondale Road, where Cedar Avenue dead-ends with W. Market Street, is another fine cluster of homes.
There are more exterior decorations along Cedar, and of course taking W. Fitchburg Avenue to Fir Circle exposes a number of displays.
One of the Tri-Area's best is along Cedar near First Street toward the county library. Chimacum Creek Estates has homes that are back on the map, along with our favorite tiny house with big lights in Hadlock on dead-end Morrissey Avenue.
We did not see the traditional upside down Christmas tree in the front corner room of a house along Irondale Road across from Fifth Avenue.
The two places with the most lights in Port Townsend are not far from one another on State Route 20 (Sims Way): The Smith property near the city welcome sign (even the Morris Minor vehicles in the parking lot are decorated), and Ken Kelly’s Vintage Hardware building at the Thomas Street roundabout, McPherson Street and Sims Way.
Within three blocks of Vintage Hardware, on Thomas Street and Parkside Drive, both off Ninth Street, are a few more great displays.
Missing in action from our map is the 19th Street hill, between Sheridan and San Juan. For the past six years, some of the best outdoor displays in town were along this street. But people have moved and some have chosen not to decorate, and the hill is mostly dark this season (as of our last tour Dec. 14).
One of our all-time favorite places for its consistently well-placed lights is just off 19th street, the corner of Hill and 22nd. Thanks, Pete.
Another long-time favorite is back at Lopez Street just off San Juan Avenue across from Blue Heron school.
Candy Cane Lane along Holcomb Street just off Jackman Street next to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds is a thing of the past. However, there are a number of great displays, including a large Christmas tree seemingly suspended in mid-air. Check out the flying pig on the home on the water side of 49th Street across from the fairgrounds.
Downtown, of course, has more locally-made LED snowflakes on lamp posts and buildings. Commercial window displays add to color and sidewalk pizzazz. Uptown, the business district has holiday lights and so do a few homes.
Morgan Hill has a few lights, including the "Happy Face" along upper Monroe Street, a fixture since the 1960s. It's now done with modern LEDs.
Also in the Port Townsend area is Nelson's Landing Road (enter from Discovery Road rather than Cape George Road) with a cluster of great displays.
OFF THE MAP
There are plenty of wonderful off-the-map scenes in places through East Jefferson county, from certain Port Ludlow neighborhoods, Chimacum Valley to Cape George to Hamilton Heights, along Center Road and Oak Bay Road, from cul-de-sacs to county roads. Cheers to all who chose to decorate!