The Lights of Douglas Lane
● By Gary VanDeWalker
Winter WonderlandDecember 2015
By Gary Vandewalker
Photos by Taryn Burkleo
Christmas for Cathy Athens included an excited drive to Ontario, Calif., with her children to see a neighborhood glowing from house to house with extravagant amounts of Christmas lights. The yearly pilgrimage inspired a love of the season and lifelong desire to adorn her home at Christmastime. Her life journey drew her to Mount Shasta and far from the decorated street she adored. Along with her husband, Dave, they now spend the holiday with their own front yard lit by 100,000 lights.
Forty years ago, an expansive Christmas display appeared every December in the Silva family’s front yard in Mount Shasta. As each holiday passed, the Silvas knew they would soon be unable to put up the extravagant attraction for the community. An agreement came about to move their creation down the street to a vacant lot, where the cemetery took over the task until vandalism and lack of maintenance found the project put away into the dust of a storage shed.
Dave began by lighting their pole barn and putting 2,500 lights on a tall tree in their front yard. He learned of the horde of decorations from the Silva display. An inquiry led to several pieces coming to his home and joining the tree.
As the years passed, Dave and Cathy collected more pieces. “We did repairs on the older Silva project, while the front yard began to grow into something of a gift to the community,” Dave says. The city donated a Santa house and the Douglas Lane Christmas attraction unfolded beneath the couple’s large pine trees.
Snowflakes drift over the lights, as children’s warm breath forms small clouds along the walkway. The original Silva carousel of the Seven Dwarves spins over the ever-evolving wonderland. Christmas music mingled with laughter and the sounds of wonder from those losing themselves in the holiday spirit fill the air. An 18-foot-tall tree looks over the festivities, as cups of hot chocolate warm the participants.
The Douglas Lane attraction is about giving. “I find unopened boxes of ornaments, people donate trees and toys,” Cathy says. “We find good homes for all of them.” The community gives back through a donation box for the electricity. Local businesses provide funds, hot chocolate and materials, making it a community treasure.
Walking through, more than 130 familiar cartoon characters populate the grounds. Fifty Christmas trees join the 12 blow-ups and three carousels. “Instead of counting sheep, I count the 50 reindeer we display,” says Dave.
The couple begins setting up in October, often working until midnight. The day after Thanksgiving the lights come on every day until the first weekend in January. Rain or snow, Christmas continues on Douglas Lane. A canopy is set up for weather, an old-fashioned fire barrel is there for warmth and coffee and hot chocolate are served on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“We love Christmas,” Cathy says.
Dave smiles and looks at her, “We enjoy giving.”
Directions: Take the central Mount Shasta exit and turn west onto
Old Stage Road. Continue north to Lassen Lane. Pass the cemetery
and turn right down Douglas Lane.