When he was a little kid growing up in Renville, Bruce Rakke’s parents never put up Christmas lights. With eight children, they had other priorities.
Rakke’s been making up for it ever since he moved to Redwood Falls in 1995.
When he was a little kid growing up in Renville, Bruce Rakke’s parents never put up Christmas lights. With eight children, they had other priorities. Rakke’s been making up for it ever since he moved to Redwood Falls in 1995. His home, at 401 Morten Drive, won the Gazette’s 2002 Christmas light contest, and since then he’s only added more lights. “When I started, I used the old-style bulbs, and they just made the electric meter turn,” he said last week. “I was paying $250 a month for my electric bill.” With new LED lights, Rakke can both set out more lights and lower his December electricity bill to about $100. Maintaining the annual display is a big deal — Rakke takes a week vacation right before Thanksgiving every year to work in his garage getting out the lights and setting them up. “For the last couple of years I’ve been cutting down on the lights, and my neighbors have been saying, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’” he said. “This last summer, someone asked me if I was going to do the lights again. “I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ I’m getting old. I’m 61, and don’t like getting up on the ladder as much.” Then he remembered the bus from Garnette Gardens brings residents out to look at the lights every year. “The folks from Garnette Gardens love it, and that’s why I had to do it,” he said. Rakke said the main reason he still sets up the lights is the enjoyment they give other people. “I’ll walk into the store, and people will see me and say, ‘Lookin’ good!’” he said. “It’s fun watching people drive by. The bus from Garnette Gardens comes by so the residents can see the lights every year.” The lights on every Thanksgiving evening, when family comes over. “We all have a good time, then wait for the lights to come on,” Rakke said. Rakke has truckloads of old lights stored in relatives’ barns around the area, but he rarely uses them because they use so much more electricity. In recent years, Rakke has concentrated on just showing off his greatest hits, the lights that people seem to like the most. However, many people don’t seem to realize they’re the same lights they’ve already seen before. “It’s the same stuff, but I put it in new places,” he said. Rakke buys most of his lights right after Christmas, when the lights are on sale for up to 75 percent off. Rakke, a drivers license examiner for the state, gets to travel a lot, and is familiar with all the big-box stores’ Christmas lights sales in the region. “I get deals, because I buy in quantity,” he said. Rakke’s current favorite lights are new globes that dangle by cables, and change color ever few seconds. “I’ve got 220 feet of them running all the way around the house,” he said, showing them off. Four years ago, Rakke set up a fence in his back yard. As a result, viewers don’t get to see some of the most elaborate displays. “We need stuff to look at too,” he joked, standing in his dining room and looking out into the back yard. This year’s lack of snow isn’t helping the display. “You’ve got to have the snow! It reflects all the colors!” Rakke said. Rakke plans to keep the lights burning until Jan. 14, when his family will visit. Rakke’s one regret is he has yet to find a good glowing nativity scene he likes. The search is still on for one, and there’s always next year.