Family to light massive Christmas display Friday

Skye Kinkade
Dave and Cathy Athens have lit up their Douglas Lane home with tens of thousands of lights since 2007. They'll continue the tradition this year, beginning the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, with Santa Claus visiting the following day and every Saturday afterwards until Christmas. Photo by Skye Kinkade

Lots of families string up Christmas lights to get in the holiday spirit. Others get more festive and add blow up Santas or grinning Grinches to their front lawns. But Mount Shasta’s Dave and Cathy Athens go above and beyond at their Douglas Lane home during the holidays – and they do it just to see people smile.

“We just enjoy it,” said Dave, who works year round to ensure the more than 100,000 lights, hundreds of cartoon characters and dozens of Christmas trees are ready to be lit up the day after Thanksgiving. “We haven’t gotten anything out of it but joy.”

Hundreds of people are expected to drive by the Athens’ home this holiday season to gawk at the display. They are also invited to get out of their cars and walk on paths through the magical winter wonderland and enjoy Christmas music which is pumped through speakers into the crisp winter air.

Santa Claus will visit on Saturday nights through Jan. 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. Children will receive free gifts and the Athens will serve free hot chocolate, coffee and cookies.

This year, they have added an area especially for photo opportunities, featuring cutouts with Santa and Mrs. Claus, snowmen and a sleigh.

The massive display features decorations that used to light up Mt. Shasta Memorial Park in the 1980s. It has been supplemented with new characters crafted by Dave and hundreds of new strings of lights, many of which were donated by people in the community who know about their venture.

“We appreciate and try to make use of everything that is brought to us,” said Cathy, including the stuffed animals and Christmas mugs which are given away on the weekends. “Sometimes we like to look out the window and listen to what people are saying... Everyone gets so excited.”

David said when he married Cathy, she had boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations, and seeing them inspired him to do more.

He asked the cemetery’s owners if he could start the Christmas display up again, but they said the liability was too great.

“Then I asked them if I could take some of the decorations home, and they said yes.”

In 2007, David brought home 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 – who are now in their 30s – when the display was lit up at the cemetery. Before that, they belonged to Frank and Evelyn Silva.

The Silvas 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, Yogi Bear and Friends, Spirit-Stallion of the Cimarron, the Powerpuff Girls, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.

David was also able to obtain the old Santa House from the Mount Shasta Fire Department that used to pull Santa’s Sleigh through town. He renovated it and Cathy decorated it to be used as a place for Santa to meet children.

You can visit the display at 936 Douglas Lane, off of Lassen Lane in Mount Shasta, any day of the week between Nov. 29 and Jan. 3.

For more information or to donate to the cause, call 926-2037.