Southern Illinois street famous for Christmas lights

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. -- Forget decking the halls with boughs of holly -- how about decking the entire neighborhood with miles of lights to express your holiday spirit?

That's what some particularly spirited residents of this Southern Illinois city have done since 1989, and the result has become a Christmas institution that attracts celebrants from miles around.

The area is called Candy Cane Lane and refers to one of the streets in a six-block cluster of 26 houses that shine really, really brightly this time of year.

Residents string hundreds of thousands of lights around intricate displays that feature Santas of every shape, size and species, the requisite reindeer, nativity scenes and even Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and a mailbox that delivers letters to Santa.

Tim Murphy, local high-school teacher and compulsive Christmas decorator, has 500 Christmas-related characters in his yard alone -- complete with 75 floodlights.

Expect 100,000 cars

He expects some 100,000 cars will meander through the neighborhood this year, and that number isn't a simple guess.

"About five years ago, we wanted to get an idea how many people were driving by and we put a counter on the street," Murphy said.

"We were amazed that more than 80,000 cars went through that year," Murphy said. The cluster of participating houses has grown since then, so much so that Murphy estimates 5,000 cars drove around the displays on Dec. 1 this year, the first night of the display.

"The amazing thing to me is that each car had three, four and five people in it," said Murphy, who gets some help from his students each year.

Thousands more see the lights on television.

Local stations commonly broadcast from the festive neighborhood, simply referring to it as Candy Cane Lane, assuming their audiences -- in Missouri, Kentucky and throughout Southern Illinois -- know where it is.

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