Festive Christmas light displays are an annual drive-by tradition

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Photo by Isabella Marandino

When December rolls around, many families make a tradition of driving around to see the spectacular Christmas lights in town.

One home in West Granby that has garnered attention for the past several years is that of Granby native John Ridel. The “Christmas lights guy” has delighted passers-by with his home’s ever-expanding light display at 165 West Granby Road (see his 2021 display below).

Ridel’s Christmas light display started like everyone else’s with the shrubs on the front of the house because that’s all there were when he bought the place nearly 30 years ago. So he began planting shrubs and trees solely for the purpose of putting lights on them as they matured. As the years went by and they grew, his lights began to spread. Originally, the lights were all clear or white, but when a young nephew told him they were boring he added multi-colored lights.

A few years ago, Ridel began adding plywood figures—which he designs, cuts and paints—to enhance the display. He had hoped by doing so to cut down on the number of lights, but that never happened. He still continued to add more lights each year, even with the high energy cost. An electrician by trade, he installed a 100-amp. sub-panel to power all the lights. To help with the energy costs, he converted them to LEDs.

Typically, it takes Ridel three weeks to prep and install the light display. His goal is to have them up and running by the Sunday after Thanksgiving. They are usually on from 5 to 9 p.m.

What motivates Ridel to invest the time, money and energy this requires each year?

“I do the lights for the kids and the young at heart,” he said.