For a twist on traditional flashy Christmas decorations, look no further than a handful of Harford County neighborhoods that feature houses with some very creative displays.
Don Myers, of Deepwater Way in Edgewood, has been using K'NEX erector-set pieces to build a veritable amusement park in his front yard every year.
The dizzying display, which features a massive roller coaster and comprehensive train garden, has drawn hundreds of visitors, Myers said.
"I have always put up a train display for Christmas" – in his basement, where no one could see it, Myers explained.
Thirteen years ago, he decided to take the show outdoors.
When he first built the roller coaster, "everybody flocked to it," he said.
"After that, I contacted the company [K'NEX] and I told them I wanted to incorporate their product in my display," he said.
Since then, the company has donated materials to Myers, in exchange for product testing of sorts.
"They want to see how their product handles the weather," he said.
Children, and adults, from miles around are eager to see the creative construction.
The project takes about 100 man hours to build and it will stay up through Jan. 3.
Myers said he did not know how many lights were involved. He stopped counting after 47,000.
"I build a roller coaster every year from scratch," he said. "It makes the whole property very busy. This just kind of keeps people moving and interested in it."
He also came up with an added treat. One year, a little boy took a Daffy Duck figurine home with him from the display, which his sister later brought back.
"That started this game that we play, to find Daffy Duck in the yard," Myers said.
Whoever finds the duck gets a candy cane.
This past Saturday night, Myers estimated 200 to 300 people were at his house. He noted firefighters also regularly stop by.
Despite his reputation in the neighborhood, Myers does not feel any pressure to raise the bar each year.
"It's a hobby, and when you are creating something where there is no set design, you go with the flow," he said.
Helping a neighbor
Meanwhile, a couple in Abingdon's Box Hill neighborhood has kept up an annual decorating tradition that helps provide for their former neighbor, who has autism.
Scott and Marge Vogt, of the 2900 block of Harrogate Way, have a house ringed with thousands of lights, as well as strings of lights that spill across the street and include everything from a dancing Santa to a helicopter – new this year – that shoots snowballs.
It all began 23 years ago, and "it just started as any other family decorating their house," Scott Vogt said Sunday.
In 2006, the decorations took a new turn when the Vogts decided to raise money for Ryan Leung, who needed help to go to a camp for children with developmental disabilities.
"Every year, he was just totally infatuated with the lights," Vogt said about Ryan. "It was a very peaceful time for him."
The first year the Vogts launched the Ryan Leung Autism Fund, they raised enough money not just for the camp but for his other therapy needs.
"We have been able to raise enough that each year we have been able to find him things that he needed," Vogt said.
Last year, Ryan and his family were in a major car accident while moving away from Abingdon, Vogt said.
The Vogts have since been helping to raise money to replace Ryan's possessions. They also still pay for him to go to camp and get other medical needs done.
The Vogts pay all the costs of the Christmas decorations, while 100 percent of donations go to Ryan's family.
"I try to make new attractions every year," Scott Vogt said. "It gets bigger and bigger and bigger every year."
The display will be up through New Year's Eve and more information is available on Facebook by searching for "Vogt House."
Several other specially-decorated houses welcome the public throughout Harford County.
A home on Laurel View Drive in Abingdon offers a light show that runs through New Year's Eve.
More information is available at http://www.AbingdonLights.com.
On West Franklinville Road in Joppa, the home of Scott Hayward is festooned with about 90,000 lights, seven inflatables, a projector image and many homemade items, according to a sign posted there.
The candy canes, stars, snowflakes and more take about six weeks to complete and cover one and a half acres on the property. The display will stay lit through New Year's Day.
In Pylesville, a home titled A Newton Noel is also available for viewing in the 2100 block of Telegraph Road.
The synchronized light show will play through New Year's Eve, according to its Facebook page.
More information is available on the Facebook page "A Newton Noel: A Christmas Light Show."