Motorists traveling west at night on I-78 near the Summit Lawn exit in are often surprised this time of year as they cast a glance skyward. Just off the highway, a twinkling Santa and his reindeer can be seen flying through the night sky.
Not far off the exit they'll see the line of cars that inch along like a slow-moving train past the dazzling Christmas lights display at George and Pat Saunders' home at in Salisbury Township.
For six years, the Saunders have gone above and beyond to offer the glorious lights display at their home.
“There are nights that we have to wait a little bit to get into our driveway,” Pat Saunders said.
Strangers have knocked on the door to ask if they can visit the backyard. Others have sent Christmas cards to thank the Saunders for their amazing display.
Pat said neighbors have yet to complain. Visitors have always been very considerate when traveling along Woodland Drive.
The Saunders said the previous homeowner, Leroy Siegel, started the tradition. The couple have not only continued, but work hard each year to expand upon it.
“We have changed the lights from last year to this year. We’ve added different green trees. We’ve lighted trees in the backyard with reds and blues and greens,” Pat Saunders said. “In our backyard we have artificial palm trees wrapped with white lights and green lights.”
The original 12-foot “Merry Christmas” sign, which was seen as one traveled along Woodland Drive, was stolen several years ago. Rather than going without it, the Saunders decided to upgrade to a 40-foot replacement. They also reinforced it to avoid further theft.
Year after year, the Saunders have worked with Ken Divers, owner of Christmas Decor in Orefield, to put on this fabulous display of lights.
The work begins three weeks prior to Thanksgiving. The display remains through the end of January and sometimes into February.
“The guys do an awesome job,” Pat said. “Ken puts a lot of input into it. He does everything with his crew to make it stay on. When it rains or snows it sometimes knocks things off, so he comes to make sure it’s all working properly. He’s always around!”
Don’t be fooled though. This is no rental display. The Saunders own every single piece of it. And every year they continue to improve it.
Divers provides them with brochures from which the Saunders purchase new lights each year. As part of the package, he also stores the lights and displays in a big warehouse during the off-season.
With the high cost of electricity, the Saunders recently made the switch to LED lights. Pat said she is eager to see how it will affect the price of their December electric bill.
“We should have stock in PPL!,” Pat joked. Their electric bill isn’t pretty this time of year, she said. “It’s phenomenal, but we’re hoping with the LEDs the cost should be a little less.”
Pat emphasized that in addition to the displays of Santa's workshop, Christmas train and dripping lights on the trees, her favorite part is the nativity scene, which is staged front and center in their yard.
“That is my main thing. Jesus is the reason for the season. This is for his honor and his glory. That comes from my heart. My husband and I enjoy everyone else enjoying it. You can celebrate your own things in your own way, but this is my way.
“Next year we are planning something even bigger and a little more spectacular. There will be an additional something big, good Lord willing. If they can get it together, this one thing will wow everybody!”