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Lighting up the season in In Manteca

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POSTED November 29, 2010 4:09 a.m.

Like gnats to a porch light on a hot summer night people can’t resist Christmas lights.

If you doubt that head over to 539 Mercedes Ave. across from Union West Park just two blocks off Union Road via Parkview Street. It is where you will find the Dale Brock family’s annual Christmas gift to Manteca - some 130,000-plus lights adorning their roof, front yard, and a towering pole.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without driving by a couple of times during the season if for no other reason than to watch all the eyes of the kids get bigger than saucers while they excitedly point out a new discovery to anyone willing to listen.

No doubt fanatical eco-green types would disagree but it wouldn’t be Christmas without burning up some fossil fuel driving around to see hundreds of thousands of small lights causing electric meters to spin so fast you can almost hear them whirl.

These aren’t Griswolds run amok who are putting up lights as neighborhood status symbols. These people are serious hobbyists.

To many - like the Brock family - it is a hobby that brings the family together. And what better way to enjoy a hobby than to have others - complete strangers at that who drive from as far away as Sacramento - admire your creativity.

Over the years many in Manteca have stepped up to the challenge. Among my favorites was a family in the neighborhood bound by Louise Avenue, the Save Mart shopping center, and Highway 99 in the 1990s who had a simple roof display with lights reading “Santa Land here” with an accompanying runway outlined with repeating lights that start out in two wide lines and converged near the roof peak with lighted striped lanes down the middle.

Another was by a proud college freshman home from Brigham Young University whose family lived near George McParland School. Their roof had “BYU” in large letters with nothing but blue lights.

And then there was Jay Smart, the former city councilman whose home that was also near McParland School. He had tens of thousands of clear lights in tight lines on his roof that were so bright neighbors used to half jokingly say they could read their newspapers by the light shining off his roof.

Perhaps that is why there is no guilt in the pleasure of plunking down $10 (it’s $2 more on Friday and Saturday nights) to drive through the Lights on the Farms at Dell’Osso Farms in Lathrop on Manthey Road just off Interstate 5 in Lathrop.

There are 240 lighted displays that are entirely different than what you’d see on Mercedes Avenue or in neighborhoods such as “Christmas Lane” in Ceres where among the 30 brightly decorated homes and yards are  custom homemade Christmas figures created from plywood. Lights on the Farm doesn’t supplant what folks like the Brocks do. It complements it.

It’s tough to pick a favorite especially among the repeating lights that give a good sense of motion among the Dell’Osso lights. That said, the scarecrow shooting off mini-pumpkins in the pumpkin blaster is pretty cool.

Which brings to mind the latest scheme of Lathrop’s own 54-year-old Huckleberry Finn - Ron Dell’Osso - is working on for next December: Converting the pumpkin blasters into devices that will be able to fire off artificial snow packed into snow balls.

It’s funny, if you think about it. Despite all the high-techs video games that take away any sense of imagination the things people still derive pleasure in are the low-tech stuff such as hunting for pumpkins, picking out Christmas trees, or oohing and aahing over fireworks and Christmas tree lights.

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OOPS! WRONG QUARESMA: Sunday’s column on the El Rey Theatre referred to retired Manteca Fire Chief George Quaresma’s high school sweetheart and future bride as Diane. That’s incorrect. George Quaresma’s high school sweetheart and wife is Sandy.

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