DALWORTHINGTON GARDENS -- The annual Interlochen holiday lights display in west Arlington gets lots of publicity, and for good reason.
A lesser-known Christmas setup in Dalworthington Gardens is worth a mention, too.
Arlington attorney David Kulesz's massive display features about 325,000 white lights -- strung on his house, lining the fence around his tennis court and hanging from the large trees in his yard. Over the years, he's gotten his neighbors involved, too, so now all 14 houses on the cul-de-sacs of Rushing Meadow Court and Harder Drive shine with about 400,000 bulbs.
The holiday wonderland stretching across Kulesz's property and part of that of his two adjoining neighbors requires 2 miles of extension cords, two electric meters and 40 timers. This year alone, Kulesz estimates that he worked for more than 150 hours, including 10 straight days of using a rented cherry-picker to reach the tops of his and his neighbors' trees.
"Most people enjoy looking at Christmas lights but do not like putting them up," he said. "I enjoy both."
His creation helps capture the spirit of the season, to be sure. But since 1999, it has also helped shine the light on Alzheimer's disease, to which he lost his mother in 2000. A sign in his yard asks those who like the display to make a gift to the North Central Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, of which he is a past president.
"Christmas is a time of giving," said Kulesz, who practices family law. "I hope the lights raise awareness and encourage giving, whether it be money or time or involvement to not only the Alzheimer's Association but to other charities and churches that are in need."
Bigger every year
Kulesz began putting up lights in 1980, when his family lived in central Arlington. He started with 2,500 and added some every year, reaching 25,000 in 1989.
The next year, the family moved to its current home. By the end of the 1990s, he was hanging more than 100,000 lights. The number has topped 300,000 for the past five years.
He does 75 percent of the work himself. For the rest, he hires help.
The project begins the first weekend in October. During Thanksgiving week, he takes a vacation from his law practice and puts in 10-hour days on a 45-foot cherry-picker.
"I enjoy it," he said. "I listen to music and drink beer. The weather is usually nice, but I have been out there when it's sleeting. You reach the point where it has to be done no matter what."
As those who have strung up outdoor lights might attest, such projects can go haywire if the power load gets too high or the decorations are off-center. A time or two, Kulesz has strung lights in trees only to realize that he left the plug end of the strand at the top.
A couple of other times, he has found himself high above the ground when the cherry-picker suddenly loses power. The first time occurred on a Saturday morning. He happened to be right outside the window of his son's second-floor bedroom, so he gave it a few raps.
Roused from sleep, his son went outside and propped a ladder next to the house. Kulesz jumped from the bucket onto the roof and slid down to the ladder.
The last time he was left stranded at the treetops, nobody else was home. The neighborhood was deserted, and Kulesz didn't have his cellphone with him.
"I had to sit up there for about an hour until I noticed a neighbor walking his dog," Kulesz said. "I yelled down and asked him to contact my law partner. Eventually, I was put in touch with the rental company, which explained to me that there's an emergency switch to turn the hydraulics on and lower the boom."
Tom Hoskins, one of Kulesz's next-door neighbors, enjoys watching the display grow year by year. He even pretends to share the credit for it.
"I call it the 'Hoskins-Kulesz' light display," he jokes.
The display has received some publicity over the years, Kulesz said, but most people learn about it by word-of-mouth. On a recent Saturday evening, cars trickled by. It was a far cry from the long lines found at Interlochen, but it might not stay that way for long.
One look at Kulesz's handiwork is all it takes to become a fan.
"If someone sees it, they are going to tell their friends," he said. "There are more and more each year."
Knowing that he has put a smile on somebody's face is all the reward he needs.
"There is no greater affirmation of the hard work," he says, "than to hear the oohs and aahs of children and to see people of all ages taking pictures of and with the lights."
Patrick M. Walker, 817-390-7423