ST. GEORGE — Cedar City residents Ben Hohman and Marielle Boneau are bringing back their residential holiday light display for the 16th year, and it is even bigger and brighter than before. All donations collected from the display, as well as the equal value of Hohman and Boneau’s December power bill, will be given to Make-A-Wish Utah.
As in past years, visitors can walk along Candy Cane Lane, which leads to the back yard where they will find Santa’s Flight School, the Christmas Zoo, Winter Disco Land and more. The display includes over 60,000 lights — about 5,000 more than last year — 30 inflatables, 24 lighted animal sculptures and a 9-foot wreath on the roof. The lights around the home are programmed to “dance” to 20 different Christmas tunes.
At the end of the walk-through display there will be a donation box for Make-A-Wish. It took Hohman and a team of his friends about 600 hours to put up the whole display, and he estimates it will take about a hundred hours to take it all down.
Hohman comes from a family of collectors, and both he and his wife work with props at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, so holiday decorating comes naturally to him. He became involved with Make-A-Wish Utah more than a decade ago when the organization asked him to decorate for their Christmas party. After being given the opportunity to grant that wish for the organization, he decided to stay involved by raising money through a display in his own yard.
“The Make-A-Wish thing was a cool way to do some decorating and also do something for a cause,” he said. “If it was just me doing it, I don’t know if my wife would let me do this much, but since it’s for a reason, I get away with doing a little too much.”
But it’s certainly not all about Hohman. Boneau loves the character Snoopy, and there are several Snoopy inflatables and other Peanuts characters scattered throughout the display. She said they find a lot of the inflatables and sculptures at yard sales, and the hunt for something new is part of the fun. The best part of the whole thing, though, is watching kids and their families enjoy the display.
“We eat dinner right where you come out and we can hear the little kids saying, ‘I’m going again! This is amazing!'” she said. “It’s become a family tradition for a lot of people because we do it every year. And it gives the community an opportunity to give back.”
In the past 15 years, the display has raised more than $20,000 for Make-A-Wish. They average about $2,000 a year, Hohman said.
McKenzie Weisler, Make-A-Wish outreach coordinator, said the money has gone directly toward granting wishes for children across Utah.
“Ben has been a great supporter of Make-A-Wish for many years through his holiday light display,” she said. “We are incredibly grateful for his support over the years.”
Weisler said this year has been especially difficult for children like the ones supported by Make-A-Wish because they have been scared and isolated.
“We believe wishes have the power to bring hope, love and joy to kids during hard times,” she said. “Through COVID, we have been able to continue granting wishes because of people like Ben.”
Because of the pandemic, Hohman will be taking precautions at the display. There will be a sign in the front yard reminding visitors to practice social distancing, and Hohman recommends visiting on a weekday instead of a weekend to avoid crowds. However because the display is outdoors and isn’t often crowded, Hohman doesn’t foresee a problem as long as people wear masks and move through the display without stopping for long periods of time.
Hohman doesn’t have a goal in mind of how much money he hopes to raise, but whatever he gets will go to the cause.
The display, located at 26 N. 1150 West, will be open to visitors from 5:30-10 p.m. starting Saturday and running through Dec. 30. Anyone who is unable to attend but would like to donate to Make-A-Wish through Hohman can do so here.
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