Sure, plenty of people put up outdoor Christmas decorations, but do they have over 20,000 lights and 100 different displays? Well, Clark Griswold does and so do Andy and Cathy Venzke.
Cathy states, “When I met Andy, he said, ‘I do a Christmas light display,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I like Christmas lights.’ The first year we went to put them up, I was like, ‘oh, my gosh.’”
Andy, an electrical engineer, designs and builds the detailed one-of-a-kind frames. Cathy hand paints the white lights with stained glass paint to achieve the right colors. To create the animation, the couple uses over 200 extension cords to connect the lights to the programmable logic controllers stationed in their garage.
“We’ve been here three years, and we haven’t put everything out yet,” says Cathy. “Our yard isn’t big enough, so we alternate things.”
Standouts pieces include Frosty the Snowman, a flying cardinal, a skiing snowman, a Times Square ball drop and Iowa State basketball and football players.
“If you watch Rudolf the Reindeer, his legs move fast and then gradually get slower and slower,” Andy states. “When Santa jerks the reigns, they’re fast again.”
Andy’s fascination with Christmas lights started at an early age. Each Christmas when he and his family visited Andy’s grandma in Davenport, they’d drive around to admire the holiday lights. One year, they stopped in front of a spectacular display and happened to meet the homeowner, Lyle Haakenson. He and Andy started corresponding, and next thing you know, Andy built his first animated light display at age 14.
Over the years, plenty of people have noticed and recognized Andy’s ingenuity and talents. While he was in high school, a local television station and various newspapers covered Andy’s displays in Independence, Iowa. Andy moved to Ames, graduated from ISU and lived there until moving to Ankeny in 2011.
“I think it was the first year I had it up in Ames, and there was a lighting contest, and we won the Clark Griswold award,” says Andy. “It’s a fun hobby. It’s rewarding to see the people come by and enjoy it.”
To make your Christmas even merrier, why not take a few minutes to drive past the Venzke’s home at 3608 SW Court Avenue to enjoy an enchanting winter wonderland. Ho, ho, ho!