WEEKEND: Put twinkles in your eyes by viewing holiday decorations [**Gallery**]

The North Olympic Peninsula is ablaze for the holidays.

From Forks to Port Angeles to Sequim, Blyn and East Jefferson County, residents and business owners have dressed up their homes and headquarters with colorful whimsy and hundreds if not thousands of lights.

This Christmas weekend, families can bundle into the car and take a drive to see the sights.

In Port Angeles, they can leave the driving to All Points Charters and Tours, which offers a nightly two-hour tour of Christmas lights every evening through Dec. 30, except Christmas Day, with two such tours on Christmas Eve.

Tours begin from the Safeway parking lot at Third and Lincoln streets.

They begin at 7 p.m. each evening except Christmas Eve, when tours will begin at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The two tours on Christmas Eve are “because of the luminaries on Second Street between Ennis and Chambers streets,” said Willie Nelson, tour operator.

The whole neighborhood lines three blocks with luminaries, paper bags with candles inside.

“It’s beautiful,” Nelson said.

A highlight of the tour is Kent and Kari Osterberg’s home at 1521 O St.

“They have a huge yard and an incredible light show, zillions of lights,” Nelson said.

The tour bus stops here, in the circular drive, and people get out to stretch their legs and partake of hot spiced cider, hot cocoa and cookies.

Other highlights on the tour are a fantastically decorated home on Chambers Street between Seventh and Eighth, neighborhood displays on Ninth Street between A and B streets and the home of Ron Bradshaw, Peninsula Daily News building manager, at 12th and K streets, Nelson said.

But the biggest draw for those who take the tour are the surprises.

“There are places we go to that no one would ever see,” Nelson said.

He’s found imaginative and impressive displays in cul-de-sacs and other out-of the-way places.

“One that’s really cute that I do is at the end of an alley. You’d never know it was there,” he said. “People always remark about, ‘How did you find these places?’”

It’s his sixth year of conducting tours, and this year, the light show is tremendous, he added.

“There are so many lights out there this year that I find it hard to get my tour done in two hours,” Nelson said.

Fares are $7.50 for adults, $3.75 for children 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 6.

“For some, it’s a tradition,” Nelson said. “I have some families who always do Christmas Eve. It’s nice to be a part of people’s Christmas experience.”

Reservations may be made by phoning 360-460-7131.

Sequim

In Sequim, downtown comes to light in splashes of colors.

Driving down South Sequim Avenue from U.S. Highway 101 toward the downtown commercial core, lit up trees in the city landscape medians seem to point the way to the Bank of America Park light display at the southeast corner of the Sequim Avenue-Washington Street intersection.

Just north across Washington Street is the city Christmas tree in multicolored lights.

Nearby merchants participate with their own light shows.

Blyn

The biggest light show on the Peninsula is the glitter and glow of some 1.5 million holiday lights along both sides of U.S. Highway 101 at Blyn.

The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe has covered the 7 Cedars Casino and tribal offices in electric brilliance as a “give-back to the community,” said Jerry Allen, casino general manager.

The best way to view the lights is to pull over at the tribe’s Blyn rest stop on Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Townsend and walk around.

Visitors can also turn off 101 onto Old Blyn Highway fronting the tribal center, park at the visitor parking lot and walk around the area.

Take the walking tunnel under 101 to the east side where a walking trail allows viewing of the lights from different vantage points, with Sequim Bay as a backdrop.

Jamestown S’Klallam Chairman Ron Allen has publicly called the lights the tribe’s holiday gift to the community.

Port Townsend

The lights in the downtown and uptown shopping districts are subtle and understated, in keeping with the town’s Victorian character.

Few displays would look out of place when the buildings were constructed.

The area of greatest concentration is around 19th Street and Discovery Road.

Otherwise, the appearance of a bright, ornate light display is a random occurrence.

For instance, 31st Street between Sheridan Street and Hancock Street has a half-dozen such displays, including a house with “Believe” spelled in lights across the roof.

South Jefferson County

South Jefferson County has always been known for its stunning holiday lights, said Ann Ricker of Quilcene, an artist who has volunteered to organize the North Hood Canal Chamber of Commerce Holiday Decorating Contest for some 19 or 20 years.

“Quilcene used to be famous for its decorations,” she said earlier this week. “When my husband and I lived in Sequim 25 years ago, we used to come down here because it was over the top. There is that tradition for decorating.”

Quilcene Conversations — a community improvement group that began a year ago — carried on much of that tradition this year, Ricker said.

Among the Quilcene Conversation holiday decorations are the welcome sign at Gateway Park and the South County Medical Clinic’, both on Highway 101.

Neither of those were in the chamber competition, but the clinic is within a half-block of the first-place winner, Brett and Ashley Hoffman at 294955 U.S. Highway 101 in Quilcene, across from the community center.

The Hoffmans’ transportation theme, which includes a moving Santa at the head of the driveway, won first-place and $100.

That’s not unusual, Ricker said.

“They keep winning the top prize,” she said. “It’s just spectacular.”

Brett Hoffman said the display uses about 35,000 lights in a collection that has grown through the years and is kept in a shed during the off season.

The family begins work on the display in September, working a few hours a night and stepping up the pace when the holiday approaches, Ashley Hoffman said.

“We do this for all the kids, so they can feel the Christmas spirit,” Brett Hoffman said.

Next door to the Hoffmans lives Sandy VanWagenen, who doesn’t compete in the annual chamber contest, but whose hand-painted decorations are “really impressive,” Ricker said.

“You have to really slow down and look at it,” she said.

To continue seeing the lights of the south county, drive on down on to Brinnon, take Dosewallips Road, turn right on Rocky Brook and take the second left to 71 Belgian Lane to see the decorations that earned the owners, Tony and Cindy Wihley, the second-place $75 prize in the chamber contest.

Then backtrack onto Highway 101 and go by Whitney Gardens and Nursery at 306264 Highway 101.

The seven-acre spread always has a massive holiday light display.

“They don’t enter the contest because they would win every time,” Ricker said.

After Whitney Gardens, drive on to 100 Easy Street in Brinnon to see why Nicole Norris and John Alumbaugh won the third-place $50 prize in the chamber contest.

“They have so many lights, they went for brilliance,” Ricker said.

Forks, West End

In the West End, brightly lighted Christmas scenes can be seen from the Hungry Bear Cafe in Beaver to Forks and elsewhere.

In Forks, Bogachiel Way has several decorated homes.

Christmas lights also can seen on Evergreen Loop off Bogachiel Way and Sherwood Forest off Klahndike Boulevard.

________

Jefferson County reporter Charlie Bermant, Sequim-Dungeness Valley editor Jeff Chew, freelance photographer Lonnie Archibald of Beaver and Leah Leach, managing editor/news, contributed to this report.

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