See the Lights
Meet the Holiday Home-Glower
Richard Norton is a longtime master of exterior illumination. He's been electrifying holiday cheer in Burbank, Calif., since the 1970s, and inspired his neighbor Keith LaPrath to start his own display. Together, the two friends have happily "competed" for decades. Their two homes, which are only a few doors down from each other, are known as the "Dueling Displays of Burbank."
Our interview with Richard Norton:
First, the two questions everyone asks: Approximately how many lights are in your display? And how long does it take you to put them up?
Richard: The display has around 20,000 lights, but its main draw are the large animated attractions (Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, hammer, etc). The ground level of the display is Santa's Theme Park. The roof-top display is the Christian theme -- the reason for celebrating Christmas.
How many years having you been putting up your display? How did it become a tradition?
Richard: We started our first display back in the early 1970s at our other home in Burbank. As children, my wife and I were into decorating. I got the bug from my parents who enjoyed decorating their front yard each holiday season. I remember going on drives to see the decorations. I was most intrigued with moving displays -- and that gave me the idea to include animation with our display. My wife grew up in a hillside home overlooking the 2 Freeway in Los Angeles. She would make a large star on their porch visible for a long distance.
What's your favorite part of your display or what are you most proud of?
Richard: The most favorite parts are the four large animated attractions: the train, merry-go-round, hammer and Ferris wheel. You can see them in this YouTube video we created of [a previous] year's display: See video.
Another neat feature of the display is the two live webcams. Visitors can stand on the sidewalk in front of the display, call any of their favorite relatives or friends on their cell phone, direct them to visit a special website (instructions are on a sign on the yard), and then their relatives and friends can view and hear them wish them a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" from in front of the display!
My wife and I get a real kick in watching through our picture window as visitors jump, dance and carry on as they are talking over the webcam!
If you were to dedicate your display to anyone or thank anyone, who would it be?
Richard: The children. We love seeing their faces when they arrive at the display. Some parents have told us that their children refuse to go to sleep at night until they have visited the display! My wife and I are always amused watching the parents being challenged at keeping their children on the sidewalk behind the ropes!
During the setup of the display, we have let some of our neighborhood young children ride on the merry-go-round. But when the display is fully operational, we must keep everyone at a safe distance because of safety concerns -- too much power out there!
And just for fun... What's your favorite holiday movie? Is there any one celebrity you would like to meet?
Richard: I have always liked 'Miracle on 34th Street'. Not only is it a cool movie, but our daughter grew up going through the Burbank schools with Mara Wilson -- the talented child actress who starred in the movie. Mara has visited our home over the holidays.
As for a favorite celebrity to meet, for me, it would be Barbra Streisand. My wife and I had the opportunity to tour her gorgeous new home in Malibu during its construction, but we did not have the pleasure of getting to meet and talk with her on that memorable day.