NEW PORT RICHEY
The glow of more than 30,000 Christmas lightbulbs draws onlookers every year to Bob Schmidt's home overlooking the Cotee River.
Like a football player, Schmidt waits an entire off season before getting his chance to shine — in his case, with a holiday light show at his two-story, 1920s historic home at Massachusetts Avenue and Grand Boulevard.
"When I get started around November, people stop by and tell me how much they love it," he said. "That's what keeps me going."
Each year Schmidt adds new touches. This year it's a creation he calls the "tunnel of light," an arch made out of PVC pipe and covered in 4,000 bulbs over his driveway that could pass for an entrance to a Las Vegas hotel.
And there are the standards every year, like the lighted sled he found in a Dumpster 20 years ago and rehabilitated into one of his favorite pieces. He has painted it over several times to keep it up for the Christmas spirit.
Schmidt, 56, who grew up in Long Island and has lived at his home on the river since 1998, got his love of Christmas decorations from his father, Daniel, who used to put up lights every year.
"He's 87 now. I really learned all this from him," Schmidt said.
Of course, it's a lot of work each year to keep the extravaganza going, not to mention the couple-hundred-dollar spike in his electric bill. But the neighbors' kudos and encouragement from his family keep him going each Christmas.
Schmidt starts setting up in November to make sure his lights are up for the annual boat parade the first weekend of December, but as his four children were growing up, it was about getting ready for Santa to come.
"Whenever I didn't feel like doing it one year, the kids would say, 'How's Santa going to find the house?' It would always get me started," he said.
Schmidt's oldest child, Jacqueline, now 26, said her father works his tail off every year to put up the lights, and its pays off with onlookers stopping to take in the display.
"It's really great, people stop constantly, taking pictures, bringing their kids to see it," Jacqueline said. "He works really hard on it."