By Kathy Rowe
The sensational Christmas display that lights up 162 Centennial Road every year started more than 30 years ago with just four strings of chaser lights mounted along the eavestrough. Today, Lance Heydon displays 15 different homemade features that light up in and around the front of his property.
Each year, Lance either embellishes a feature or creates a whole new piece for his display. Last year he created a replica of the popular Toronto sign at city hall. A smaller version yes, but no less eye-catching. “It’s made out of plexiglass, wood and duct tape,” Lance said. “Unlike the majority of my other pieces, the Toronto sign uses LED lights and I wired it so that the colours flash throughout the different letters.”
Lance, a retired mail carrier, definitely has a creative gene. He uses sheet metal in many of the decorations. He molds the shapes and then covers them with garlands and lights. Then he designs the lighting patterns so that the decorations show movement.
“The first real piece was the waving Santa,” Lance explained. “My good friend Rocky used to do light shows for rock bands and he taught me how to do the electrical for my displays. Once the waving Santa was done, I was hooked!” What about the hydro bill? “Actually it’s not as bad as people might think,” said Lance’s wife Gail. “The lights are not all on at once, so basically our bill doubles for the month of December.”
When I asked Lance what inspired him to light up his property every Christmas, he noted that it was his father who gave him the inspiration. “My dad would always make interesting things to display at Christmas. He wasn’t so much into the light show, but he would build things like a nativity scene with flood lights all around. He put in a lot of effort.”
Gail supports Lance’s holiday hobby. “When our kids were young, each year they would invite their friends to witness the unveiling on December 1st at 7 p.m. Girl Guides, hockey teams, baseball pals and, of course, neighbours would all be in front of the house awaiting the flick of the switch.” Gail admitted that the last few years have been quieter. “Our three kids have all grown up and don’t live at home anymore. The neighbourhood has changed. We no longer have a crowd on December the first.” Lance added, “But we still have lots of interest. People always slow down when they pass the house.”
For 20 years the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund would benefit from the Heydon’s Christmas cheer. This was Gail’s charity of choice and on December 1st the family would collect donations from the many onlookers. “It was never anything official,” recalled Gail. “But each year I would put the donation tin out.”
Make no mistake, there was a time when December 1st was a very magical day at this home. I recall a year when hot chocolate was served and even Santa made an appearance. It still carries the magic. When I asked Lance if any of the displays carry special meaning, his response was a heartfelt yes. “Many years ago my favourite uncle passed away. I really wanted to do something in his memory. That’s when I made the Peace on Earth words. I just love that phrase.”
On Friday, December 1st at 7 p.m. Gail and Lance Heydon will once again turn on their lights. Make sure to look for the new addition to the display. Many thanks to the Heydons for making Centennial Road so bright and cheerful during the holiday season. May this tradition live on for many years to come.