Kopecky's legendary lighted Christmas display

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Each year the home of Joyce and Norman Kopecky, located at 919 North 2nd Street, lights up the community with holiday spirit. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Caroline Rosacker

Each Christmas season the house of Norman and Joyce Kopecky, located at 919 North Second Street in Guttenberg, transforms into an array of magical Christmas delight. 

Kopecky has been decorating his home for the Christmas holidays for approximately 50 years. 

"All my life Christmas was a big holiday; growing up we always had some outside lights and always a crib on the front porch," stated Kopecky.  

That originally started out as a few strings of lights on four evergreens in the front of the house and a six-foot long creche with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger, has now turned into a notable display. 

A very few years Kopecky added more figures to the crib. The addition of the wise men created the need for a ten-foot crib, and in later years the addition of the carolers and angels required a 14-foot crib. 

"That's it — I ran out of room in the front yard. It can't get any bigger," Kopecky said with a chuckle. 

Raising a family of four created the need for some savvy shopping and enlarging the collection a little  at a time. 

Most of this extensive collection was purchased at Theisen's and Menards.

The Kopeckys always wait until the Thanksgiving holiday is over before starting this laborious process. 

"I celebrate one holiday at a time. I never light up the display until December," stated Kopecky. 

Joyce Kopecky, Norman's wife, is in charge of decorating the interior of the home, and Norman commandeers the outside. 

A meticulous plan is put into place to complete this project. Kopecky has the decorating plan mapped out from year to year, reworking the plan to include new additions.

Adverse weather conditions aren't a problem for the display. Each figure is secured to a board  that has four holes drilled through it. The board is then anchored into the ground with long nails.

Covers are placed over the connections to protect the extension cords in case of rain.

This year's unseasonably cold November has created a challenge for Kopecky's operation. In past years he has been able to push the nails into the ground. This year with a deep frost already in the ground, each stake and nail had to be pounded in. 

"It takes about three weeks of daily work to get the display up and in working order," said Kopecky. 

Kopecky calls his decorating style "Traditional Christmas."

"The south side of the house is set aside for the true meaning of Christmas, and the north side of the house is for Santa Claus," said Kopecky with a smile. 

Figures and lights are primarily stored in the attic with some items in the basement. The first order of business is to bring all the figures down from the attic and up from the basement. 

The figures and boxes are stored in the south half of the  attic in  meticulous order to ensure that everything fits properly. Smaller figures and boxes are placed on the outside walls of the attic and larger figures stand in place according to height to fill up all the available space. 

"Its a small space that doesn't have a lot of headroom so I spend a lot of time crawling on my hands and knees to get everything carried down the ladder," said Kopecky 

The decorations remain in the house in spare bedrooms and in the kitchen until Kopecky is ready for them in the yard. 

Kopecky does not use timers for his display; it is lit each night and unplugged at the end of the evening. 

Kopecky expressed gratitude to former neighbor Paul Dale "P.D." Dickson and current neighbor Donna Jensen for turning the display on and off when the Kopeckys are away from home. 

These avid Iowa Hawkeye fans have attended numerous Bowl games, and without the assistance of their dependable neighbors the display would loose its sparkle. 

"P.D. even used to water our Christmas tree," Joyce said with a laugh. 

With encouragement from former neighbor Helen Meder, Kopecky extended his display to the back of the house for her enjoyment. 

Kopecky intermittently checks the display for any burned out bulbs or other problems that might occur during the holiday display season. 

The decorations are left up until the first full weekend in January.  

At that time everything is brought in, wiped down and left to dry in the basement or back porch if it has any excess condensation.Each item is checked over to make sure everything is in working order before it is stored away for the season. 

The numerous extension cords are rolled up and put away in marked boxes according to length. 

"This is our Christmas card to our neighbors and the community," stated Kopecky. 

The Kopeckys have received numerous compliments over the years. 

Many families drive by with their wide-eyed children in tow creating the illusion that Santa lives here, and maybe he does — his Christmas spirit certainly does. 

Take time this holiday season to drive by and enjoy this labor of love and don't forget to drive around the back!

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