HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS

Thousands of Christmas lights illuminate neighborhood at Oly Lightstravaganza

Plenty of people put lights on their house in December, but very, very few put up 100,000 lights.

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That’s the approximate number of lights Whitney and Luke Bowerman have on their home in Olympia for this year’s Oly Lightstravaganza.

Oly Lightstravaganza has been steadily growing for years, said Whitney Bowerman. Every year the Bowermans put up a large, intricate array of lights on their home and invite the public to come take a look.

The tradition stemmed from Luke’s love of Christmas lights and decorations. As a kid, he would compete with a neighbor to see who could put up the best Christmas light display on their houses.

“We met in 2004, and I discovered his affinity for Christmas lights, and then it just kind of took off from there,” Whitney Bowerman said. The display has grown ever since. At their previous house, just a few blocks from where they live now, their display grew to about 15,000 lights. Then the couple moved about a decade ago. Their current house allows for even more lights, which have engulfed their rental property next door.

“I think it was 2012 I started the Facebook page, and it just totally blew up from there,” Whitney Bowerman said. Before then, their lights were something that the neighborhood could enjoy, but it didn’t really attract a crowd beyond that. Advertising on social media changed everything, drawing larger and larger crowds as the holiday tradition grew.

It takes about one month to set the whole thing up, said Whitney Bowerman. They typically start the weekend before Halloween.

She described the design as a sort of “winter wonderland.” They stay away from blinking lights and synching their light display to music, like many do. They also display some custom art work from local artist Vince Ryland.

“My husband and I are both very design-oriented. … We kind of design with the landscape in mind and try to work with what we have there.”

It’s hard to gauge just how many people stop by, since it attracts so many people who just walk or drive by, but the numbers are in the thousands. Last year, Whitney Bowerman said, she gave away around 6,000 cookies. Unfortunately, there are no cookies this year. Cookies, the hot cider stand and other staples of the display have been scraped because of COVID-19.

In previous years, people could snake through the yard, to get more up-close-and-personal with the display. Now, it’s something that must be enjoyed from a distance. Masks are required for everyone, unless they stay in their vehicles.

Whitney Bowerman said mask enforcement has been a bit of a challenge. She has to tell people pretty often to mask up if they’re at the display. Even though they’re not a business, they’re operating their lights display with the same rules and safety measures that businesses are supposed to follow, she said. That means masks are required, and signs are set up as reminders.

One thing that the pandemic hasn’t changed, however, are donations. It’s completely free to come by and check out the lights, but donations of cash and nonperishable food are accepted. Donations are given to the Thurston County Food Bank.

Santa has made an appearance, and he’ll be coming again in the future, Whitney Bowerman said, but she doesn’t announce beforehand when he’ll show up, to avoid drawing too big of a crowd. Instead, his appearances are a surprising treat for whoever happens to be there at the time.

Oly Lightstravaganza is located at 1515 10th Ave. SE. Hours are 5 to 10:30 p.m.  It will be on display through the end of December. 

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