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Musical Yule lights all part of Ripon family tradition
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John Nutt and his family followed the tradition of his dad Ripon Mayor Red Nutt, center with his spectacular Christmas light decorations and FM music at his Ruess Road home. Seen from left is his light team made up of his wife Shirley and sons Wyatt, 14, and Jake 12. - photo by GLENN KAHL

209 INFO

• WHAT: Nutt family Christmas display
• FROM HIGHWAY 99: Take the Jack Tone Road exit and head west. Travel to  Main Street/West Ripon Road and turn right (CVS Pharmacy) on southeast corner. Travel to Ruess Road and turn left.

RIPON - The Nutt family in Ripon is known for going all out with their Christmas decorations – a tradition that started years ago at the home of now Mayor Red Nutt at his residence on Idaho Street and followed up by his adult son John with nearly 12,000 lights underscored by music on an FM station.

John remembers helping his dad set up lights on the family home when he was only 12 and looked at it as something of a thankless chore.  Not only did they string countless lights across their house and yard but also on giant trees that marked the corner of their property. It lit up the neighborhood like “downtown Reno,” they quipped.

It was a time when the senior Nutt was a police sergeant and later became Ripon’s chief of police.  Wife Bonnie managed the lighting effort by her husband and sons but she was better known as a talented pie maker – her special lemon was a family favorite.

Now John’s sons Wyatt, 14, and Jake, 12, are there to help their dad.  Wyatt has learned to drive the lift so his father can hang the lights on the eaves of the house in the 700 block of Ruess Road just west of Weston School.  Both boys are seen as being indispensible.

Four years ago John Nutt was determined he was going to put together a lighting extravaganza at his home after a painting crew had finished their job and left their lift in his front yard.  It was that lift that he used to hang his first string of lights that have evolved into what has put his neighbors in awe.   Motorists driving by only need to turn their FM car radio to 106.7 to hear the music that has been set in sync with the Yule light display.

It was early-on that Nutt entered a Home Depot National Christmas Light Contest finishing in the top 20 contestants.  Next Nutt attended a light-o-rama seminar in Sacramento put on by the California Christmas Lights Association where he learned more about his home-lighting passion and added even more colored lights and displays.

He said all of the lights on his house are now LEDs rather than being incandescent.  His PG&E bill increases only about $30 over the holiday season where it had previously cost him about $300 with the old incandescent lights.  He said they are all powered through a 50 amp breaker. 

The younger Nutt’s wife Shirley said they couldn’t use the blow dryer and the microwave at the same time, because the original electrical breaker would pop, tripping the main.  They realized they had a major problem when all the house lights went dark and needed to increase their electrical system.

John said the neighbors know they are getting ready to put up their display lights when they see the lift parked on their front lawn.

“We start this on the day after Thanksgiving with the lights taking two and a half days to install and eight hours per song – we have 10 songs,” he said. 

John has dressed up in the Santa costume that was handed down from his dad to add more Christmas spirit and cheer in front of his home – with an added treat of hot chocolate.  Candy canes have been the order of the day for any guests who drop by in addition to the cups of chocolate. 

When the locals walk and drive by to see his display – Nutt said they all love it.  It’s his form of giving back to the community.  John and the elder Nutt both had fun in helping out Ol’ St. Nick at countless Ripon parties over the years.  It has also served as a bonding between father, son, and grandsons in the annual effort.

209 staff reporter