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After 21 years at 2 homes, famous Ahwatukee Christmas lights display enters final season

Chloe Jones, Arizona Republic

Breanna Grigsby for (CNT) City New and Talk #ahwatukee-az https://ahwatukeenewsandtalk.com

The Taylors’ Ahwatukee front yard, a Christmas light staple for the past 18 years, is adorned this year with wooden paintings of characters from favorite films like “The Peanuts Movie” and “Frozen,”a handmade sleigh to take photos in and interactive games. Thousands of lights can be seen from half a mile up Kachina Drive.

The family tradition started in 1999, 21 years ago. It became a popular attraction once the family moved to Ahwatukee, but 2020 will be the display’s last year. The Taylors are downsizing, and the manpower it takes to build the display is no longer attainable, said Kim Taylor, who started the tradition.

“It takes a village,” said Taylor. “My middle son, Kurt, is there with me every night. I have my brother from Idaho who comes down and helps and I got all my friends and family to help throughout the season. And it’s about 700 hours to put up.”

When they moved into their house on the corner of Kachina Drive and Blackfoot Drive in the Ahwatukee Foothills neighborhood of Phoenix, Taylor said they added a porch and renovated their front yard with 22 outlets to support the lights.

Despite the arduous build out and expensive electricity bill — about two to three times what it would usually be in December — Taylor said it pays off when he sits on his porch and watches the community come together.

“It’s really more of a Christmas spirit way to see a lot of great people more than it is about lights,” he said.

Growing up in Ohio, Taylor said his family didn’t have a lot of money so his mom always drove them around to see Christmas lights. He said the lights were some of his favorite memories, and he wanted to give back to kids like him.

Katie Hemmerle has been visiting the Taylor house for 15 years, starting when she was in the fifth grade. Now, she brings her own kids.

“It is a tradition for them,” she said. “But even for me, I feel like I just remember coming every year.”

Her kids took turns throwing horseshoes around reindeer antlers then stuck their heads through life-size boards to pose as elves. She said she’s sad to see the tradition go, but understands and appreciates the work that goes into the display and plans to visit at least one more time before it’s done on Jan. 2.

Out of all the Christmas memories at the Taylor house, there is one that stands out beyond the rest — even more than their 2016 feature on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight”: the community supporting them when their light display was vandalized in 2015. Taylor said a third of their lights were destroyed, and people helped them clean up and donated their own lights and decorations.

“Those (decorations) all have a special place in our heart, knowing that in a time where we were very sad and felt like Christmas was ruined and people really stepped up and helped us get it back,” said Kati Pedi, one of Taylor’s daughters.

As the night draws on and Christmas gets closer, more people have taken their last chance to see the masterpiece of a house the Taylors have and drop off their letters to Santa, and Taylor hopes people who visit walk away with a little more Christmas spirit and joy than they did when they arrived.

How to see the Taylors’ holiday lights for the last time

Where: 3611 E. Kachina Drive, Phoenix, AZ 85044.

When: Every night from dusk to 11:30 p.m. through Jan. 2.