Deck the houses with lights and tinsel

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

It is the holiday spirit that's in the details, not the devil, when it comes to decorating for Christmas. Just ask Kenny Clark. Or James Coley. Or anyone else who knows the tinsel-thin line between gaudy and glorious.

"You don't want to go too far overboard," said James Coley, an owner of Rose Bed Inn in Cape Girardeau. "Last year, we didn't overdo it. It wasn't garish. It was very nice and elegant."

So was the house at 443 N. Frederick St., where Kenny Clark has decorated for the past five years, including the artistic use of lights, garland, red bows and reindeer.

"Christmas doesn't come too soon for us," said Clark, a retired towboat engineer who spent much of his Monday afternoon on his roof putting up lights. "I want it all done so I can turn on the lights by Thanksgiving. 'Sides, I like doing it. It makes me feel good, and it looks nice."

Coley and Clark aren't just bragging. They know how Christmas should look and others have said so, too.

Theirs were among the handful of Cape Girardeau businesses and homes that were named a winner in the Holiday of Lights contest last year. Now, with Thanksgiving coming next week, it's time to gear up for the contest again.

Deadline Dec. 6

The Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the contest, is seeking nominations for this year. The deadline is Dec. 6, and nominations can be made at the chamber's office at 1267 N. Mount Auburn Road.

Judges from the chamber's beautification committee will visit the nominated homes and businesses from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 9. Signs will be placed in the yards of 21 winners from throughout the city.

"It goes toward our city's beautification," said Jeff Glenn, the chamber's director of membership development. "Having a clean image is a great selling point when people are looking at Cape. It's also just a part of encouraging people to be in the holiday spirit, which is always a good thing."

After the winners are announced, the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau will hold a Holiday of Lights Bus Tour at 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 and 14. The bus will depart at 7 p.m. at the CVB office at Broadway and Main and view the winning homes. The tour lasts about an hour.

When Coley started decorating, he didn't even know the chamber had awards. It was the first Christmas for his new business, and he wanted it to look nice.

And for him, decorating was a work of love and detail. Unlike Clark, however, Coley waits until after Thanksgiving.

"I go with the more muted colors," Coley said. "Rather than go with red, I went with burgundy. Rather than white, I went with cream. I went for the Victorian feel as much as possible."

He also strung up cranberries and lots of twinkling lights, as well as putting up Christmas trees in the inn's foyer so they can be seen from Sprigg Street by drivers. Roses were strategically placed all over the inn, too.

"When I was done, I thought, 'That's what Christmas should be,'" Coley said.

'Know when to say when'

Clark's approach is to add something new every year. He doesn't want to spend a fortune, so he buys new decorations after Christmas, when they can be bought on sale.

He has a homemade cross on the front of his house that is illuminated by Christmas lights. He also puts lights on the front of house, from the gutters and along the sides. Lights also go on the shrubs.

Candles sit in the window. Three reindeer will stand on his lawn, the buck turning his head, the doe grazing and a baby deer looking quizzically toward the street. A smaller reindeer made of a log and sticks, with an unmistakable red nose, stands watch on the porch.

"You can do too much," Clark said. "You just have to know when to say when."

As far as advice from the chamber, Kathy Bertrand, the chairwoman of the judging committee, said it's hard to say what works and what doesn't.

"You just sort of know it when you see it," she said. "We basically go out and look for the most tasteful, the most pretty. We have several different personalities voicing several different opinions. We have to come to a consensus."

Whoever wins, Coley said people should have the holiday season -- not a contest -- as a motivation.

"If people are doing it, they shouldn't do it to win an award," he said. "They should make it about whatever Christmas means to them."

335-6611, extension 137

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