PAHOKEE — Christhie Meister came out of her big home on Bacom Point Road to walk one of her rescue dogs when she spied the stranger walking around the yard shooting photos of their lighted Christmas yard display on an overcast, blustery day last week. During the day.
The lights weren’t even on, so she was a little suspicious, she said. Good time to walk the dog. Their neighbors keep a close eye on the yard too, especially when she and her husband, Mike, aren’t home because, believe it or not in the 14 years they’ve been constructing their holiday wonderland in the yard, several times they’ve had decorations stolen or damaged.
Mr. Meister said, when asked why they continue to do it every year, that not only are they determined to keep trying to bring some cheer to their small community, but they even continue to add to the display new year after new year. They also upgraded recently, converting to LED light strings because it will save them several hundred dollars on their power bill (one winter their charges were almost $600 more than normal, but now they’re saving nearly half that amount).
“We really enjoy doing it,” the couple wrote in an email. “It’s fun trying to come up with something new each year, and we hope that it may inspire others to do so, even if it’s just a strand of lights — and maybe most importantly, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.”
Mr. Meister went on to say, “Pahokee is a little ‘secluded,’ you know, a small town, so we’re trying in our own small way to contribute to some cheerfulness during the holidays.”
They said it seems like not that many people are decorating for holidays much anymore and added, “We love Halloween and Christmas, so my wife and I decorate the house inside and outside, and every year we try to add a little bit more.”
Mrs. Meister said they start on the holiday display a few days after Halloween, switching out the ghostly decorations that they also do every year. Since both work full-time jobs, it takes them over six weeks to get the whole display set up! The Christmas menagerie includes the obligatory Santa, sleigh and reindeer, a whole bunch of toy soldiers, bears and other figurines and a miniature kids’ city surrounded by arches in the center.
Thousands of lights festoon all the decorations, of course, and you can tell there’s someone with an eye for design and some technical talent behind the display because it is elaborate and gorgeous. (Mr. Meister happens to be an area manager for Laser Quest — a “live action laser tag” company — and his wife is an interior designer with her own business.)
Christhie said they constantly have people stop by who are just traveling through on busy U.S. 441, a good number of them from outside the area, especially on weekend nights. She said she even has some of her old Miami neighbors drive up every year to visit just to enjoy their display. Often they’ll bring whole families and snap photos using the Meisters’ decorations as a backdrop.
Another hobby of Christhie’s is rescuing elderly, infirm dogs and caring for them. The Meisters have over half a dozen living in their very large home, so that gives them a good excuse to be outside a lot and they can keep an eye out for porch pirates and folks who want to take something other than just photos. That’s besides the fact that sometimes they’re out working on the display for hours after getting home from their jobs, even past midnight sometimes. They do the whole thing all by themselves.
This past week they had to wrap most of the electrical connections and reinforce some of the props because of the windy, rainy weather recently.
The couple live just south of downtown. Mrs. Meister invites folks to come by and enjoy seeing for themselves the product of their many years of collecting decorations!