The lights flicker and shine brightly in a Largo neighborhood that has grown accustomed to the glow. For 25 years, the Lights of the Lake Park have been bringing joy to visitors.
Even the newest residents get excited about living in a neighborhood where practically everyone decorates to the max.
“My wife gave me my budget and I stuck to it, and next year we’re going to add to it,” said Chris Baker, who moved into his home in September. “You can’t instantly beat him.”
Baker pointed to his next door neighbor’s home. Steve and Amy Maltinos have one of the most-visited houses in the area. Over 100,000 lights is Steve’s best guess. His display features 170 lit-up candy canes, two giant trees made of light strands and multiple marching soldiers.
“I plan for Christmas all year round,” joked Steve, who earned the nickname "Mr. Christmas" from Amy. “I told my wife do not plan anything in December. I’m booked all month.”
The lights are special but the purpose behind them is powerful. In 1992, a beloved community member, Ruby Dow, died. She received such exemplary care from Suncoast Hospice that her husband, Eddie, pledged to honor her memory with Christmas lights. He asked for donations that year with intentions of giving the money to Hospice.
Eddie died in 2007, but the neighborhood has continued with the lighting tradition. Now, on the 25-year anniversary, the Lights of Lake Park have generated over $780,000 in donations in Ruby’s honor.
“It’s kind of neat to be part of that now, to know that we can be over helping collection donations and be a representative of the Suncoast Hospice,” said Baker.
The lights can be seen at 6 p.m. nightly at 109th Avenue N and Lake Park Drive in Largo.