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The magic of the season is in the people

The Signal Holiday Light Tour 15

Posted: December 11, 2008 7:20 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2008 4:55 a.m.

The home of the Richards' family (tied for sixth place in the annual Light Tour judging) is a wonderland of lights and holiday good cheer. The Richards will host Santa this weekend and are asking for toys and cash donations to benefit the Domestic Violence Center of SCV.

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For the Richards family in Canyon Country, one goal is to brighten the lives of visitors who drive or walk by their Christmas light display.

But that's just part of it.

This year the three generations of Richards, who have won The Signal's Holiday Light Tour before, have set out to help the women and children of the Santa Clarita Valley's Domestic Violence Center.

"I want to put a smile on those women's faces," mom Kim Richards said. "We need to empower these women. That's why we did this."

"This" is a spectacular light show for residents to enjoy (27509 Glasser Ave., Canyon Country). And this weekend, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Santa Claus and elves will be on hand to greet youngsters and take gift requests from young wide-eyed believers.

Kim Richards hopes families who come to visit Santa for free will make a donation of a toy or cash for the Domestic Violence Center.

"Cash will be used to make personal gift baskets for the moms at the shelter," Kim Richards said. Toys will go to the children at the center.

"These hard times are even more reasons to listen to your heart and help local kids by putting smiles on their faces and hope in their hearts," reads a flier distributed by the family.

Kim Richards' determination to make the Santa Clarita Valley a better place is characteristic of those who opened their arms and their homes to welcome us last weekend on The Signal's 15th Holiday Light Tour.

Our theme was "Home for the Holidays," but it might just as well have been "Goodwill to men" (and, of course, women).

For Gavin Plasschaert of Saugus - who began putting up decorations the day after Thanksgiving and threw his back out in the process - it's all about bringing joy to young visitors' faces.

"The looks I get - that's why I do this," explained the L.A. city firefighter and father of two. (See the Plasschaert home at 19634 Edgehurst Lane in Saugus.)

For the Frost family, it's a mother/daughter project. Well, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law and some neighbors thrown in.

Together they cut out and painted plywood Christmas figures, which adorn their front yard along with a 24-foot-high Christmas tree and stuffed animals that come in at night. (Admire their creativity at 21633 Masterson Court in Saugus.)

Dave Desmond gets a special thank you for his much-appreciated bribes ... er, gifts (We're not revealing what they are!); for his emphasis on theme; and for what can only be called techno-geek Christmas decorations. (Sorry, Dave, I mean that in the warmest terms.)

He boasts "a jillion extensions cords" (but really there were just 196), a singing and ear-wiggling reindeer head mounted out front, dancing lights, a laser show and a mysterious Santa lurking upstairs, not to mention the stranded home decorator hanging off the side of the house.

Be prepared to tune your car radio so you can hear the music to which the lights dance. This is guaranteed to please the youngsters, who may want to get out of the car and dance along. (the Desmond residence is at 23813 Claymore Way in Valencia.)

At Ash Court in Saugus, the message is about the love of God: "Hope," "Faith" and "Love" are spelled out in holiday lights on rooftops, and visitors are invited to make donations to the Domestic Violence Center or the Hunger Defense Fund.

As at many locations we visited Saturday night, Ash Court residents were sitting out front, warming themselves by fires in portable fireplaces. A couple who met on Ash Court are to be married just after Christmas; Ash Court resident George Crawford will be officiating.

"You get to know your neighbors," Crawford said. "That's really what makes it worthwhile."

At Wakefield Court, as at Ash Court, it's about the neighbors, not just the lights. To maximize the Wakefield Court experience, visitors should be on foot. (Unfortunately, there is no nearby parking.)

Wakefield's Tim Archer says all but one of the 41 residents participate.

The impact is not so much due to the dazzling lights, "Night Before Christmas"-themed placards and music (including a live band on the weekends), but by the warmth of these residents who bear unbelievable traffic jams - not to mention what must be sky-high electric bills - to share their joy with SCV residents.

Neighbors greet each other and total strangers, kids dart about with Christmas ribbons and hats on their heads while the band Rhythm on the Rocks belts out Christmas favorites from Archer's garage.

"This is the best year," Archer says. "We have more lights this year than we've ever had."

Don't miss it - any of it.

And while you're at it, say hello to some of the best neighbors ever - right here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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