Art and science required for the perfect Christmas home |

Art and science required for the perfect Christmas home

Jeff Munson
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Joe Wurzer and his 11-year-old daughter Amanda decorated their home for the holiday season.

When it comes to South Shore residents decking their halls, Joe Wurzer has about 20,000 reasons why people should stop by to gawk at his digs.

What began as a promise to his daughter to decorate their South Lake Tahoe home, Wurzer has instead made the timeless tradition of Christmas decorating an art and science of meshing light and power.

Each of the 20,000-plus lights that adorn his home at 1703 Black Bart has a specific purpose for being precisely where they are.

“There are displays where people plaster their house with lights but there’s no pattern to it,” said Wurzer, a night manager of Albertsons supermarket in South Lake Tahoe. “I think the prettiest homes are the ones where people take their time and assemble it, and recognize places around their home where the multi-colored lights mesh with the natural colors around the home and illuminate pockets of trees and bushes.”

Amazingly, the Wurzer home, with its thousands of lights, has a warmness to it. It’s not night neon Las Vegas and it’s not dim.

Wurzer credits his 10-year-old daughter Amanda for giving him the road map to good Christmas home decorating.

The idea to decorate was sparked in November 2003 when the family sat down and watched a videotape of a Christmas home decorating tour.

“My daughter asked me if we could go all out and do ours better than what was on the videotape. I said, ‘Sure, we could try,'” he said.

Wurzer’s wife, Diane, was skeptical at first, but when he explained why they should put the time and expense into the project, she was all for it.

“I told my wife that this is all for the memories of our 9-year-old. She’s our child but in no time she will be in college.

“I will want her, as an adult, to think back when she was a child and how we did this for Christmas,” he said. “As Mark Twain said: In order to breath the air that angels breathe, you must go to Tahoe.”

To get started, he made a drawing of the home and all the trees and shrubbery around it. He then put Amanda to the task of figuring out what decorations she wanted and where they should be placed.

“She basically colored in the drawing I made like a coloring book. I took it when she finished and we went according to her plan of attack,” he said.

When Wurzer puts his mind to something, he goes to greater lengths than anyone would expect. So, he began shopping, locally. For last year’s Christmas he ordered nine 4-foot high reindeer, a huge sleigh, a 10-foot Santa Claus, a 9-foot snow man, an illuminated train set and dozens of 2-foot-high candy canes. He bought most of his decorations from Albertsons and Kmart, plus thousands of feet of lights, and more than 1,000 feet of extension cord.

The first year of decorating was complicated. It took about 30 hours to put the display together from the ground up. This year, it was a breeze. After last year’s holidays, Wurzer carefully put everything in boxes, rolling up the strings of lights, which were easy to unfurl along his 75-foot driveway. The same is true for the decorations, he staged them along the driveway, grabbing each one as needed.

Electricity is key to making it all work.

Each extension cord has its own power capacity, so he has meticulously lined them up to fit maximum and minimum power needs. To light the entire display without blowing a fuse or starting an electrical fire, he uses four separate circuits.

When asked how much last year’s electric bill was, he sighed for a moment and then chuckled: “I’m not sure. I don’t pay the bills. My wife does.”

The Christmas lights at the Wurzer’s will remain on during the holidays.

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