1.18.2008

The Quimby Award: Candy Cane Lane

Now that the holidays are officially over, we have time to sit back and reflect on the traditions and events that make Christmas so special.

Some years ago, we stumbled upon a local holiday landmark, Candy Cane Lane. Even if you're not from Milwaukee, I'm sure you’re familiar with the concept – homeowners get together and coordinate aggressive, excessive outdoor Christmas displays. In Milwaukee, Candy Cane Lane (CCL) is a 12-block area of small 1950’s and 60’s ranch homes demarcated by strips of white and red plastic twined around poles and trees.

The participation rate is impressively (and maybe suspiciously) high. I’m imagining tense neighborhood association meetings, a lot of peer pressure, confusing and arbitrary rules and Machiavellian power plays.

Michael imagines a Grande Dame of Candy Cane Lane; a pushy, judgmental old lady who often admonishes, “It’s supposed to be about the candy canes!”

Of course, I suppose it could be that people simply enjoy participating in a community activity and sharing the joy of the season. I guess.

Anyway, the participation rate is a good 90%. Anyone without decorations? Probably Muslims or Commies.

Quantity over quality is a popular approach to decorating in CCL. It appears many homeowners, possibly drunk at the time, fling dozens of strings of flashing multi-colored lights in the general direction of the shrubbery and plug those puppies in. “I’ve got your Candy Cane Lane right here!”

On the other hand, some people go to a lot, and I mean A LOT of effort. We’re talking hand-carved wooden figurines, synchronized lighting routines, piped-in music, little slide shows projected onto garage doors, animated penguin carousels, giant working snow globes, inflatable polar bear jazz bands, human-scale nativity scenes, working “Days to Christmas” countdown clocks and just about every type of illuminated plastic holiday figure imaginable.

I almost forgot about the corporate sponsorship! As you approach “CCL Central” (the intersection where high school girls or firemen or Shriners or random old people stand in the middle of the street and hit you up for a donation), there’s a brightly lit sign welcoming you to Candy Cane Lane, on behalf of Verizon Wireless. Excellent.

Michael just reminded me that CCL raises a lot of money for cancer research. Thanks. I feel like a total asshole now. And really, that’s super, but maybe they should also donate some money to an environmental organization since it must take millions of kilowatt hours to keep CCL going from dusk ‘til dawn, Thanksgiving to New Years.

There is a point to this story.

After our first visit, I realized CCL provided a perfect opportunity to resurrect one of my family’s Christmas traditions.

Each December, my family would pile in the car, pop in the cassette of John Denver and the Muppets, and go looking for houses to nominate for “The Quimby Award.” My dad started this tradition and it’s one of my fondest Christmas memories.

The criteria for the Quimby Award are really pretty straight forward:

• There must be flashing or “chasing” lights somewhere on the scene.
• The tableau must blend the sacred and profane. A light-up Frosty or Santa hovering over the baby Jesus? Excellent.
• Some type of Licensed Character should be present.
• Bonus points if there is evidence of decorations from another holiday anywhere in the yard – a rotting pumpkin on the porch, or one of those jack-o-lantern lawn and leaf bags next to the garage? Perfect.

So, without further adieu, here are the nominations for the 2007 Quimby Award!

In this post 9-11 world, I think it’s time to update the nomination criteria to include anything with a military theme. USA! USA! USA!


The kneeling Santa. Always a classic. The lighted reindeer is a nice touch.


Holy shit, what is going on here? “Son, I know you’ve been a good boy, but I'm afraid Santa can't make it this year -- he’s fighting insurgents in Iraq. In fact, with stop-loss and mandatory tour extensions, I really wouldn’t expect him next year, either.”


I know the picture quality is poor, but what we’ve got here is a giant illuminated snow globe with a bottle of brandy inside of it. Underneath is the legend: “Celebrate the Holiday.” Klassy.


SpongeBob SquarePants, check.
Totally insane amount of flashing lights, check.
But something’s missing…if only…WAIT, is that “John 3:16” done up in flashing lights on the side of the house?!?

We may have a winner here, people!

1 comment:

jessica nava said...

Where can I get the kneeling Santa at? I've been looking for something exactly like that!