Norm and Debi Lee's list of the holiday decorations in their yard sounds a bit like the lyrics to "The 12 Days of Christmas": A 10-piece gingerbread village ... Santa's sleigh and reindeer ... six helper elves ... five lighted reindeer ... a three-piece snowman family ... two large nutcracker soldiers on the porch ... and "a mailbox elf depositing our son's letter to Santa."
The Lees, who live at 2108 Canadian Circle, off North Veneman Avenue in northwest Modesto, also have a three-piece holiday train -- the Ho Ho Express -- elves stringing lights on the roof, a three-piece toy shop and more.
It's "maybe not as much as those computer-generated systems, but ours is all handmade and we're very proud of our 18-year effort and hope it puts everyone in a holiday mood," Debi Lee wrote to The Bee. "We have 45 pieces of yard art that my husband cut out of wood and I hand-painted. ... Everything is complemented by thousands of lights. ... It truly is a wonderland. Timers control the lights, which are on every evening from 5 to 10 p.m. We hope that everyone enjoys the holiday season."
We asked readers to share their recommendations of must-see outdoor décor, so that those of you who want to bundle up the kids, fill a thermos full of hot cocoa and hop in the car don't have to fly blind like Santa on a foggy Christmas Eve.
Never miss a local story.
"Dow Street in Turlock is a good location to check out," wrote Wayne Sabin. His sentiment was shared by at least a dozen other people who called or e-mailed to recommend visiting several beautifully decorated homes at Dow and West Minnesota Avenue.
Unfortunately, another Turlock favorite, Oxford Court's elevated Christmas train, is absent for a second year. A vacant home -- the same problem faced last year -- is keeping court residents from putting up the 700 feet of track that runs from house to house. "It's with deep regret" that the homeowners can't put up the train, said resident Michele Jaggers, because it drew tens of thousands of visitors each year, who helped fill barrels with donated toys and canned food for Turlock Together, run by The Salvation Army.
On the brighter side
There are a few places, at least, to enjoy light shows synchronized to holiday music. Daryl and Judie Redmon, at 5831 Lipizzan Court in Riverbank, call theirs a "family gift to our community" and plan to play the light show from 5 to
9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 26. "Just tune your car radio to 94.5 FM to listen to the music as the lights respond to the music," the Redmons wrote. "This is our fifth year and a totally rewritten light show. To perform the effects, I am using 52 channels of control with about 300 hours of programming."
On Thornhill Way, right off Snyder Avenue west of Prescott Road in Modesto, husband and wife Will Solymanbeyk and Wendy Wong have had a synchronized light show for a few years now, and this year's is the best yet, drawing a stream of traffic any given night. Several homes on Thornhill are lighted, and last weekend, the neighbors had a Toys for Tots barrel out, staffed by a couple of Marines in their dress blues, and were serving hot cocoa and cookies to donors. If you're on Thornhill, continue to Excelsior Way to check out some nice décor there, too.
Mark Linker, at 1541 Sturm Drive in Modesto, wrote: "We're back and better than ever! We are transmitting a signal 107.7 with holiday music. Our lights and our neighbor's dance to the music. We have also decorated a foreclosed home, too. Please come by and enjoy."
Story continues below map; Use plus, minus signs and directional arrows to zoom and move.
View Christmas Lights 2009 in a larger map
And Jerry Nance, at 2453 Whitewater Way, just off River Road in Modesto, issued an advisory along with his invitation to enjoy his holiday decorations: "Airplanes on approach to the Modesto Airport should not mistake the lights from this home as the airport runway. Mr. and Mrs. Claus with their reindeer and the North Pole would be the clue."
Here are other addresses readers steered us to:
4217 Fara Biundo Drive
1408 Glen Aulen Drive
2809 Mission Bell Lane
1109 Speer Drive
123 Almond Ave.
313 Corson Ave.
Castle Street at Lucern Avenue
Verano Avenue at Bandero Lane
Harvest Road at Havenbrook Way
Rothchild Drive at Malden Lane
3705 Affirmed Drive
3604 Northern Dancer Drive
Litt Road at Sleepy Hollow Lane
3511 Isabella Drive
3536 and 3532 Kee Lane
3320 Matalea Court
Millbrook Avenue at Parkcrest Drive
Southwell Lane at Kings Park Lane
2609 Tradition Way
2909 Omega Way
3101 Tully Road
Moss Rock Court
1621 Pimlico Drive
3709 Amestoy Court
391 Seventh St.
20110 Fourth St.
To add addresses to our list, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll add them to our map at modbee.com.