One guy’s dream of decorating his house and serving free hot chocolate has turned into an extravaganza of blazing lights, caroling choirs, a carrot-eating camel and visits by Santa in a Hayden subdivision.
Each evening, Jeremy Morris and his wife, Kristy, have invited the public to join them from 6 to 8 p.m. in their front yard for a dose of holiday cheer. Publicity for the festivities, which run through Monday at 1473 W. Cardinal Ave., took off on Facebook. Within a few days, hundreds of people had liked the page.
“We knew we were onto something big,” Jeremy Morris said.
On Thursday evening, about 80 people squeezed onto the lawn of the couple’s home, lit by thousands of Christmas lights.
Lakeland High School’s a cappella choir sang “What Child is This?” while kids held lighted candles or waited in line to feed carrots to Dolly, a camel from a petting zoo. Parents snapped pictures with Santa, while Jeremy Morris directed activities with a megaphone.
“My wife said, ‘You can start with lights,’ and look at what happened,” a delighted Morris said. “Some good ideas are just good ideas. There was a thirst in our community for this kind of thing.”
The crowd size has attracted attention from Hayden city officials. Morris, an attorney, said the festivities came together so quickly that he didn’t have time to get a special events permit.
Activities spilling into the street or sidewalk and obstructing vehicle or pedestrian traffic require a parade or special events permit. In the absence of a permit, City Clerk Vicki Rutherford said she’s talked to Jeremy Morris about the need to keep public rights of way clear.
If city officials receive complaints about crowds blocking the street or sidewalk, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office will be asked to enforce the regulations for unimpeded traffic flow, Rutherford said.
But as of Friday morning, the city had only received one complaint from a neighbor, and it was about the number of lights on Morris’ house. “There isn’t anything that restricts him from decorating with lights,” Rutherford said.
Morris said he’s working to follow the rules. He’s hired people to stand on the property’s perimeter, waving the crowd back when it spills into the street. He said he’s also received permission from a nearby church, North Star Baptist, for people to use the church’s parking lot on Ramsey Road, cutting down on traffic in front of his house.
Tessa Mabrey and her husband, Jason Strailman, of Coeur d’Alene, brought their two kids to Thursday’s gathering after Facebook friends recommended it.
“It’s pretty neat. It reminds me of that movie – ‘Christmas Vacation,’ ” she said, while her 8-year-old son, Braden Mabrey, fed a carrot to the camel for a $1 donation to Animal Allies of Idaho.
Shannon Coll, of Hayden, brought her daughter, Keira, also 8, who held a candle during the caroling.
“She loves it,” Coll said of her daughter. “We drove around town looking at the lights before we stopped here. It’s homey and traditional.”
She also liked that it was a free event. Morris is encouraging people to donate food, cash or diapers, which he said will be given to two local charities, Children’s Village and the Emmett Paul Snyders Foundation.
He’s already envisioning a bigger event next year.
But “in the future, we will work with the city,” he said.
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