Norton's Christmas Winter Wonderland
Dick Norton's Christmas display and Christmas lights draw thousands to his Burbank home each holiday season.
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Dick Norton has a long history of creating unique holiday displays, going all the way back to his childhood when he helped his father bring Christmas to their front lawn in Southern California. Dick recalls his father building a wooden Christmas tree decorated with coffee cans and lights. They would also take a trip out to the desert to find three different sizes of tumbleweeds, which they painted white to make a "snowman."
Dick started creating his own family displays nearly 30 years ago. He started simply by placing a few items on the lawn and stringing up some lights. He says the display has grown in size each year. Now he has to rally Santa's little helpers on Nov. 1 to begin setting up the display.
"I spend a lot of time on it along with my wife, daughter, two sons and their wives and even the grandkids — four of them — pitch in to help," Dick says of the five-week process. "Our neighbor up the street with the other display, Keith LaPrath, spends a lot of time helping us with ours. Without his help, we likely would not continue to do it."
The biggest challenge he faces is getting Norton's Winter Wonderland powered up each year. The display consumes up to 100 amps of juice, and when it's lit up, the family has to conserve power inside.
"When the display is on, I tell the wife no oven, dishwasher, microwave. Anything that consumes a lot of power is off limits. We tend to eat out a lot during the holidays," Dick says.
He estimates about 10,000 lights are involved in the display, but the animated elements are really what make it special. Visitors might mistake Winter Wonderland for a small-scale amusement park. Norton's display features a rotating Ferris wheel, merry-go-round complete with moving steeds, flying swings and a train and a Santa-in-a-box. The complexity of the newest addition rivals that of an actual theme park ride.
"The new addition this year is the double-hammer ride. It has two long counter-rotating poles, each with a basket on one end and a counterbalance weight on the other and characters ride in the baskets," Dick explains. "The mechanics to achieve the precision counter rotation, the baskets meet at the bottom and at the top as they travel in opposite directions, was the greatest challenge. Also, getting independent power to each arm to run the lights was tricky as well."
Norton keeps a logbook for visitors to sign as they drive by to see Winter Wonderland and he estimates the display draws around 5,000 visitors each year. Having LaPrath's display just six houses down helps draw a larger crowd, Dick says.
Those crowds and the compliments keep Dick in the business of running Winter Wonderland each year.
"We have had a number of comments in our log like, 'This is the only Christmas our children will have.' This brings tears to our eyes, that we were able to bring some happiness to families where this display means so much to them. So, as long as we have our health, can afford to run the display and Keith is still available to help us, we will continue doing it," he says.
While the yard is covered with fanciful animated displays, Dick's roof is reserved for religious observances.
"Our roof remains focused on the true meaning of Christmas, where we feature the Nativity, along with other Christian-oriented lighted objects and animated angels. We hope that visitors relax and enjoy the animation, but also remember that Christmas is a time of celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ."
A family gets help with an exterior home makeover and decorating for the Christmas season.