When Peter Parente was 4 years old, his mom caught him on the roof helping his father put up Christmas lights. Since then, it’s been Parente’s job to make Christmas come to life.
“It’s a year-around project,” Parente said. “It never stops and I’m already thinking about ideas for next year.”
Parente’s thoughts are common in the Greater Pittston area — one can see the holiday spirit alive and well on a quick trip up and down the streets from West Wyoming to Duryea. There, passersby will find blow-up Santas, reindeer parked on the peaks of roofs, along with lights that can be seen for miles.
The house on Sterling Street in Pittston Township belongs to Parente’s parents, Sam and Jean. Since Peter could remember, he has been decking out his parents’ home with Christmas decorations. This year, he said, there are between 25,000 and 30,000 lights. But it’s not just the lights that catch the holiday spirit.
Passers-by can tune their radio to 90.3 FM and see the house come to life with lights programmed to different Christmas songs. According to Peter, for every minute of a song there is about 15 hours of music programming involved. He said he started hanging decorations on Nov. 1 and was working on it every day through Thanksgiving.
“It’s a lot of time and a lot of money,” he said.
Peter’s decorations include everything from an inflatable Santa Claus to a self-constructed Christmas tree on the left side of the house. As far as the electric bill goes, Peter said it increases substantially. But that’s not a reason to stop his hobby.
“I love the smiles on people’s faces,” he said. “It’s just a hobby and I can’t stop doing it. I love it and I can’t help it.”
Lighting up the Junction
John Grill has been lighting his 60-foot spruce tree for Christmas each of the past 16 years. Each year, the display gets more and more spectacular.
The tree, in front of the Grill home on Union Street, Pittston, is decorated with more than 10,000 lights. It used to be just a tree, he said. However, with the help of his son, the tree has turned into a magical winter wonderland.
Every hour on the hour, starting at 5 p.m., the lights flash to the sounds of five different songs, which last about 20 minutes. A sign near the tree directs visitors in their cars to tune to 99.9 FM.
“I think everyone in the Junction expects it,” Grill said. “I’m going to miss the tree when I get older. It’s just been going on for so long.”
The process of decorating is a long one, Grill said. He’s not sure how many hours it takes to get each light in the perfect place. The star, he said, tops it off.
On top of the tree sits a large star with 1,250 lights. To get the star up there, he lifts it without the lights most of the way up the tree. While hanging from the tree, he attaches the lights and puts the star into place.
“I’ve seen Rockerfeller Center’s tree and it just sits there,” Grill said. “This makes it feel different. I’m glad people enjoy it.”
Grill’s isn’t the only property in the Junction to get decked out for the holiday season. The Cherkauskas family on Chapel Street turned to the white lights to make their house the brightest on the block.
West Pittston’s holiday spirit
Across the river, the West Pittston Tomorrow is holding a house decorating contest. Because of this, the town is lit up like a candle.
The Reilly family on Susquehanna River in West Pittston took a classic approach to this year’s decorations. The house isn’t strung with thousands of lights, but just enough. The house is lit from the outside with a pair of nutcrackers guarding the front steps.
The Hutchins family on Fremont Street stepped up its decorating style a little this year because of several holiday contests throughout the borough.
West Pittston Tomorrow will host the holiday house decorating contest starting on Dec. 26. Residents wishing to participate in the contest are asked to have all decorations turned on from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. Winners will be announced Wednesday, Dec. 30. The contest is open to businesses and residents in West Pittston only. There will be prizes awarded in two categories: traditional and whimsical. Prizes will be awarded for first and second place. Visit www.wptomorrow.com for details about the contest.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick