Paolo Stracqualursi lives in Everett’s Fir Grove neighborhood, a high-wattage attraction for Christmas light fanciers. Like his neighbors, he decorates his house with thousands of lights, but he doesn’t stop with that. A Community Transit bus driver, his alter ego is Santa Claus.
Every night through Christmas, the 47-year-old Stracqualursi plans to be dressed in his Santa suit and out greeting sightseers. Fir Grove, just south of 100th Street SE and east of the Silver Lake area Costco, has been a brilliantly lit holiday spectacle for 30-plus years.
It’s all for a good cause. People who come to see the lights have a tradition, too. Through the years, they have donated thousands of dollars and tons of canned food to support the Volunteers of America Food Bank.
From his donation station in the neighborhood park along 21st Avenue SE — you can’t miss it, big tree trunks are wrapped in lights — Stracqualursi hands out candy canes and collects food and money.
“We just took 1,365 pounds of food to VOA,” he said Wednesday. By Dec. 25, he expects the effort to raise more than $10,000 in donations of cash, food and toys.
Stracqualursi, who moved to Fir Grove six years ago, is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood. “When I moved in, there were outlets all over. The house came with 14 bins of lights,” he said.
“When I sell my house, that’s what they’re going to get — lights,” said Steve Bond, a Fir Grove resident for more than 20 years. Until Stracqualursi took on Santa duties, Bond organized the food drive for years with another neighbor, Brandon Crisler.
“Fir Grove is actively helping us for the holiday season,” said Alison Cook, Volunteers of America Western Washington’s senior director of hunger prevention services. Stuff-a-bus events, school food drives and “a lot of people adopting families through VOA” help the agency serve people in need at Christmastime, she added.
On a recent night, a South Pointe Assisted Living van rolled past Fir Grove homes. Many houses are blanketed in lights, from rooftops to lawns.
At one house, a little girl tiptoed up a sidewalk to get a closer peek at a window that looks like an old-fashioned department store display. Kirk Slightam and his wife Melissa said their window decor is inspired by the movie “A Christmas Story.” A Santa figure holds what appears to be a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, like the one featured in the 1983 holiday comedy.
The couple, who have lived in the neighborhood two years, remember taking their now-grown kids to see Fir Grove’s lights years ago.
With about 50 strings of lights, Kirk Slightam said the electrical problems he had last year have been resolved. After tripping circuit breakers with big C9 incandescent bulbs, he has switched mostly to the energy-saving LED variety. The couple considered a snow-making machine, but stopped short of that.
John and Debbie Taylor’s yard is filled with inflatable characters. Snoopy and Winnie the Pooh share space with “Star Wars” figures Darth Vader, Stormtroopers and Yoda in a Santa hat. In one corner near the house, there’s a Nativity scene.
Debbie Taylor, who runs a child-care business in the home, said one little girl told her mom, “This isn’t Miss Debbie’s, this is wonderland.”
Fir Grove homeowner Michael Moe turned his yard into a patriotic display. Starting with wooden table tops from a hardware store, he enlarged seals of each branch of the U.S. military, then with carbon paper transferred them onto the wood. With a wood-burning tool, he created details of the seals, then hand-painted them. Coated in epoxy, the disks are illuminated by spotlights.
Moe, 55, said a health problem kept him from military service. “We need to honor military families, all the soldiers, sailors and fliers,” said Moe, a Fir Grove resident since 1993.
All over Snohomish County, dazzling lights bring holiday cheer. The Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach Camp in Stanwood, with food, music and more, attracts thousands of visitors each year.
On the northeast corner of 63rd Street SE and Commercial Avenue in Everett, a tall light-filled tree topped with a star is a welcome sight for Caitlin Knox. She has enjoyed it for years. “I don’t know the people who live there, but I fully plan on delivering some home-baked goods to thank them for the annual dose of festive Christmas spirit,” Knox said.
In Fir Grove, bright lights help to feed the hungry.
“I don’t know how it started,” said Jackie Noble, who has lived near the neighborhood park since 1976. At 71, she spent three days this year creating her amazing light display. Neighbor helping neighbor is part of the tradition. “Paolo does the peak of my roof,” Noble said.
Moe calls Stracqualursi, the neighborhood Santa, “an Energizer Bunny.”
“He’s an amazing guy,” Moe said. “He always puts a smile on my face. He’s a caring soul.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the lights
The Fir Grove neighborhood in southeast Everett, just east of the Costco near Silver Lake, goes all out with holiday lights. Sightseers donate canned food and cash to benefit the Volunteers of America Food Bank. Elaborately decorated homes are between 100th Street SE and 104th Street SE, in the area of 21st Avenue SE. Santa’s donation collection site is on 21st Avenue SE, just past the 100th Street SE entrance to Fir Grove.