Hundreds of people are expected to stop by David and Cathy Athens’ Douglas Lane home this holiday season to marvel at the thousands of holiday lights and decorations the couple has collected and repaired over the past five years.

Hundreds of people are expected to stop by David and Cathy Athens’ Douglas Lane home this holiday season to marvel at the thousands of holiday lights and decorations the couple has collected and repaired over the past five years.

Sparking fond memories in the minds of Mount Shasta natives who still remember the holiday light display that used to light up Mt. Shasta Memorial Park, the Athens’ yard is now lit with more than 80,000 sparkling lights, 40 reindeer, 30 Christmas trees and dozens of festive cartoon characters – including many of the originals from the Silva’s display in the ’80s.

If you look across the street, you will see that Bob and Lori Quillin have joined the effort. They have the Silva’s original nativity scene, along with several refurbished characters.

Even with an injury that will leave David one-handed for most of the next few months, he was still able to get the display up and running by the day after Thanksgiving.

“We do it for the community,” said David, who badly cut two of his fingers Nov. 16 with a table saw while working on trimmings for the display. Instead of canceling, David called some friends to help him finish the preparations.

He said he doesn’t know exactly what gave him the idea to start up the display again, but it all started when he and Cathy got together in Aug. 2006.

“When she moved in with me she also brought along nine big containers of Christmas decorations,” David said. “At first I thought she must be crazy to have so many decorations, but it ended up inspiring me to do more.

“At first, I?went and asked the cemetery’s owners if I?could start the display up again, and they said no. There was too  much liability involved. Then I asked them if I could take some of the decorations home, and they said yes.”

In 2007, David brought home just a few of the vintage decorations, which covered approximately one-third of his expansive yard.

Characters from Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, the Flintstones, the Peanuts gang, Rocky and Bullwinkle and the Care Bears delighted children in the 1980s when the display lit up the empty lot next to the cemetery.
“Before the decorations were at the cemetery, they belonged to Frank and Vivian Silva,” David pointed out. “Frank made them, then he got high school kids to paint them.”

The Silvas later donated their decorations to the cemetery, which continued the display until 1989 or so, when vandalism began to be a problem and the tradition ended.

The decorations were relegated to two large storage sheds, where they sat until David decided to dig them out.

The Athens’ display has been made even more impressive by the lighting of a big tree in the yard which has been adorned with more than 2,500 commercial grade LED lights, as well as several modern cartoon characters, including Spongebob Squarepants and his counterpart, Patrick, Scooby Doo, Dora the Explorer and Diego, Thomas the Train, Winnie the Pooh and Friends, The Chipmunks, the entire Simpsons Family, and Sleeping Beauty. A sound system pumps cheerful holiday music in the crisp night air as visitors wander through a sparkling winter wonderland.

David was also able to obtain the old Santa House from the Mt. Shasta Fire Dept. that used to pull Santa’s Sleigh through town. He renovated it and Cathy decorated it to be used in their yard to give away free hot chocolate, coffee and cookies on Friday and Saturday nights through the new year.

The Santa House is also used on Saturday nights when Santa visits. Children can visit Santa between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. every Saturday night.  Each child receives a stuffed animal of their choice and a candy cane from Santa.

The Athens’ yard was named December’s Yard of the Month in 2009 by the Mount Shasta Garden Club – the first time that organization gave the award during the winter season.

Traditionally, David said 50 or 60 cars make their way down Douglas Lane each night to see the big display.
“We’ve had people come from all over – from Yreka, Vacaville, San Jose and Chico,” David said, noting that Christmas light displays and decorated homes used to be more common.

Every year people from the community come by and drop off Christmas decorations, stuffed animals and Christmas coffee cups.

“We appreciate and try to make use of everything that is brought to us,” said Cathy. “Sometimes we like to look out the window and listen to what people are saying,” Cathy admits. “Everyone gets so excited.”

“We just enjoy it,” David said. “We haven’t gotten anything out of it but joy.”