Being with your family is an incredibly important part of the holidays for many people, and losing a family member can make holidays tough to bear.
For Lisa Parkinson, the winner of the Sammamish Independent’s holiday lights competition, honoring her husband, whom she lost to cancer 10 years ago, is her biggest motivation to put on a dazzling display of lights at her Heritage Hills home every year.
When Parkinson’s husband Dave was still alive, they would install splendid Christmas lighting decorations every year since they moved to Sammamish in 1989. They used to get a head start by preparing the lights during Labor Day weekend, spending about 100 hours to put up 50,000 to 60,000 bulbs.
“My husband used to go out and just chat with people as they would drive by. He’d take a glass of wine out and just sort of chat and have a good time. Talking to people and seeing them enjoying it. He just got a lot of joy out of it,” Parkinson, 64, said.
After her husband passed away, Parkinson has continued this holiday tradition to honor him every year. One of her four children who lives nearby, Erin, sometimes helps with the decorating. But for the most part, Parkinson works alone.
This year, Parkinson started putting up decorations in mid-November, spending 35 hours to put up about 20,000 lights. Even though the number of lights has halved since her husband’s death, Parkinson makes sure to install the features that he loved.
“He used to do the big field with the pond and the river. Sometimes he’d do a little waterfall thing. So, I always make sure to include that somewhere,” Parkinson said.
Before her husband passed away, thousands of people came to watch the amazing light show during the holiday season. Cars would line up all the way to the main road. So the Parkinsons decided to put out a big collection bin to collect non-perishable food items to donate to a local food bank — usually Hopelink in Redmond.
“We used to get over 1,000 pounds of food. Now the decorations are smaller and fewer people come, but we still get about 300 to 350 pounds of food every year,” said Parkinson.
She said removing the lights is the hardest part for her each year. It usually takes her 20 to 25 hours.
Still, Parkinson loves putting up the lights and rejoicing on this special holiday with all who come to visit. She has received many friendly notes and compliments from the community. She is happy to know that her light show brings joy to many others. Some have even made a drive-by of her house their own holiday tradition.
“Some little children would write these cute little notes, like ‘Thank you Mrs. Parkinson for doing this. The deer is my favorite part’,” Parkinson said. “It’s just adorable.”
As the years pass and her children have started families of their own, Parkinson is considering winding down the light display soon.
“I won’t do it forever, but let’s see,” she said.
Lisa Parkinson won our first-ever holiday lights competition, and was chosen by a vote of Sammamish Independent editors, board members, and reporters. You can see her lights at 2509 227th Place NE in Sammamish before she takes them down on Jan. 1.