Mount Airy light display benefits foster children

Glenn Zior's neighbors in Mount Airy have never been bothered by lights flashing four hours every night and traffic filling the narrow street as car after car stops to watch and maybe leave a donation, he said.

In fact, many have asked him when his annual display will be ready. The lights will be on this weekend, he has promised.

"Neighbors love the display, and a few have complained that it hasn't gone up yet," he said.

Days before he tackled the annual remaking of his front yard into a holiday wonderland, Zior estimated he was short about 10,000 lights. His glowing display has grown exponentially since 2008, when he first built it as a fundraiser for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Frederick County.

The 46-year-old Mount Airy resident rarely loses lights and buys strings at post-Christmas sales to replenish and augment the supply stored in his attic, basement and wherever else space is available. But as the electrifying gets under way in late November, there never seems to be enough. Over a Thanksgiving vacation in Florida, Zior lucked out when he found 75 more hefty boxes at a half-off sale and carted those home with him.

Zior, a software engineer, has volunteered at CASA for five years and is now working with his third foster child. He is one of dozens of trained advocates who befriend children in foster care and speak for them, often to the courts. Last year, his display helped raise about $1,100 for the Frederick chapter, and Zior hopes to add to that figure this year.

"You are the person who can really make a difference in the life of a child in foster care," he said. "These kids have no choice about their situations, and many see them as on the lowest rung of the ladder. CASA really can help."

The funds raised are only one of the benefits, said Christy Kehlbeck, case supervisor at CASA.

"Glenn's efforts also get the word out that there is a need for this advocacy group," she said. "It gets people thinking of vulnerable children."

Because of that recent vacation, Zior, who has built the entire display himself and does most of the setting up, started a bit later this year. But neighbors have seen the work in progress and know the lights will go on soon.

Steven Ioannides, 12, who lives across the street, said he always "checks it all out as soon as it's done. The music is great, too."

The music comes from a transmitter in Zior's attic. Visitors just hit 95.3 FM on the car radio and can watch lights turn from white to red to green to the strains of "White Christmas," "Carol of the Bells" and other few favorites.

"People come from all around, not just the neighborhood," Joanne Honsberger, a neighbor. "They turn on their radios and listen to the songs as they go by. It's really quite impressive, and we look forward to it every year. We know there will be something more."

Zior even built his 6-foot-tall Frosty the Snowman — who has no inflatable parts — a collapsible shed to protect his electrified head from the weather. All the pieces are numbered to facilitate easy reconstruction each year. Santa stays indoors and his remotely controlled image waves from the second-story window.

"Kids think Santa is in my attic, and they wave back to him," Zior said.

A video of an elaborate display inspired him a few years ago, and he has steadily added to his collection until there is little more space on the lawn for additions.

"It's a structural display," he said. "I don't just throw everything I can find on the lawn."

The 30-foot-high megatree alone gleams with 12,000 lights. His to-be-lit list includes arches, new this year, that allow colorful flashes of light to leap across the lawn; dozens of smaller trees; the towering Frosty; wreaths; all the landscaping; the bay windows; the roof; driveway and sidewalk. And in a nod to Hanukkah, a 4-by-8-foot rooftop Star of David is bright enough and high enough to guide traffic from Main Street to the home.

"You can see the star from a long ways away," he said.

And the display adds only minimally — less than $100 for the month of extra lights — to the family's electric bill.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad