A cul-de-sac all aglow

Glen Burnie man whose house has thousands of lights decorates for neighbors

December 24, 2006|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,Special to The Sun

It's not unusual for folks to decorate the outside of their homes at this time of year. Some Anne Arundel County residents even decorate their boats.

But Tony Iorio Sr. took holiday house decorating up a notch when he extended his annual Christmas lighting extravaganza to the homes of his Glen Burnie neighbors.

Building on a tradition that he began 20 years ago, Iorio, 46, volunteers to install lights and decorations on the homes and lawns of his three neighbors on Delmar Avenue, off Fifth Avenue. He has even added more than 50 feet of white lights to a fence running along an unoccupied side of the cul-de-sac, creating a circle of fantasy and light.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Dec. 24 Anne Arundel edition incorrectly reported that a Christmas light display on Delmar Avenue in Glen Burnie would be up until the end of January. The display ended Jan. 1. The Sun regrets the errors.

Not everyone is able to scale a 30-foot ladder to decorate a roof, so the neighbors appreciate the generosity of Iorio and his son, also Tony, 17, who has taken over some of the ladder climbing. The light show is a work of love for Iorio, his wife Darleen, and their son.

"The neighbors know I love to do it," he said, "and they bring their lights over to my garage when it's time." The only payment he accepts is Christmas cookies.

With the help of friends and family members, it takes about five hours to take down the display, which is stored in the garage, an outdoor storage shed, under the stairs in the house and among the rafters in the attic. But it takes a lot longer to install.

Iorio, who works at the Giant Food warehouse in Jessup, and his son begin the installation the day after Halloween. They finish by the first day of December.

The family shops for additions to the display after Christmas, when supplies go on sale.

"We find things at places like Wal-Mart and Target," Iorio said.

Around Anne Arundel County, the availability of decorative lights has made it possible for many homeowners to produce winter wonderlands in their yards.

The Delmar Avenue display gained momentum two decades ago when Iorio noticed a group of children standing at the entrance to the cul-de-sac waiting for Santa's annual visit on a firetruck from the Glen Burnie Fire Company.

He thought he needed more lights to entertain the children as they waited in the cold.

The decor has evolved into a child's wonderland. Hailey Furniss, the 18-month-old daughter of Iorio's niece Heather Williams, dances and claps her hands beside a full-size singing Santa, a favorite of the children.

More than 1,000 sets of red and blue lights cover the two-story Iorio house like siding and spread across the roof like shingles. And more than children are impressed. Iorio said that as many as 50 cars arrive each night carrying visitors to take in the sight.

One year, an appreciative family knocked on the front door and presented Iorio with a tin of homemade cookies, saying that they had toured all the decorated houses in the area and that his had won their "cookie award" for being the best.

Another time, the Iorios received a Christmas card from someone who had taken a photo of the Iorios' house and used it for a holiday card.

Not an inch of space is without a sparkle and glow, Iorio said. "When I get ready to turn on the lights," he says, "I have to notify the airport."

Iorio said that although his electric bill goes up a little, he doesn't look at it because he enjoys what he's doing so much.

Iorio has computerized each element of the display. Thirteen timers are required to handle the display in his yard. Three others turn on the neighbors' lights.

A giant inflatable polar bear waves to visitors from the garage roof. Other inflatable decorations - Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, a snow globe, a carousel and a soldier - decorate the lawn. Patriotic red, white and blue installations - a star and the American flag - are important to Iorio, who created giant, lighted arches that span the driveway and tall candy cane lampposts out of PVC tubing.

The lawn is dotted with his handmade wooden decorations. A former child's playhouse is Snoopy's decorated doghouse. Snoopy rests on top.

A jack of all trades, Iorio spends downtime customizing his favorite vehicles.

The rest of the time he's deciding just how he's going to improve his display.

This year the holiday impresario rigged a transmitter to send an FM radio signal on 87.9 so that when visitors are in the cul-de-sac, they can listen to Christmas music in their cars.

The display is lit from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. daily through the end of January, and until midnight Christmas Eve and about 1 a.m. New Year's Eve.

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