STEPHEN HEMELT — Graves Avenue house lights up our Christmas

Published 12:10 am Saturday, December 21, 2019

John Burleigh had to rewire his front porch in Groves, which was only about a year old at the time, because he kept blowing the circuit breakers by plugging in so many Christmas lights to his existing side house sockets.

He did it, and his enthusiasm for holiday displays never ceased.

Recently moved to 3020 Graves Ave., John and wife Angela are well into year two of their Groves Christmas display.

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He is a longtime Halloween decorator and has highlighted the holidays with eye-catching displays at his previous homes.

Originally from Orangefield, John spent time in the U.S. Navy and moved back to Texas when his service was complete.
John said his wife helps with some of the decorating concepts but it’s left to him to turn them into reality.

“I started decorating for Halloween, and people started enjoying my displays,” he said. “I thought I would go onto Christmas because of the TV show, the Great Christmas Light Fight. I was inspired by it because my children are all grown and young people in the neighborhood love my Halloween displays.”

What began with a couple of strings of lights has grown to include more than 3,000 bulbs on strings and also includes numerous lighted blow-up displays.

He starts setting up during the first weekend in November and it takes almost a month to complete.

“My wife is a perfectionist and I am not,” he jokes

“My favorite part is the archway where the manger scene is in front of the main entrance to the house. When it lights up, it really is pretty neat with a tunnel effect.”

John said a neighbor down the street stopped by one day and said, “God, you got a lot of Christmas lights. You want more?”

It’s a practice that’s repeated as some neighbors rather he use their lights then decorate on their own.

“People always come by asking when do the lights come on,” John said. “It’s been fun.”

Although he admits disassembling the mammoth display is a “nightmare,” always taking longer to take it down than to put it up.

“It’s easy to put up because the inspiration is there,” he says. “Taking it down is sad in some ways and other ways it’s frustrating. I wonder, ‘how did I get lights around this?’ It’s like walking up to a minefield at first until I get some stuff pulled up.”

Next year’s expansion plans include adding a gingerbread village, more wooden cutouts and possibly the introduction of a guitar-playing Santa Claus backed up by a reindeer drummer.

John said he is also part of a contest sponsored by Countryland Properties.

“I have a sign out front,” he said. “If you text ‘fight’ to 31996, they ask for your name, phone number and what house do you want to vote for. The winner will get a trophy and $200 donated to his or her charity.”

John welcomes all to swing by his home to take in the lights and to vote for his effort if truly inspired.

Here’s to all of our neighbors going the extra mile to make the holidays brighter for everyone.

Merry Christmas to John Burleigh and family, and to all in Port Arthur and Mid-County.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2445 or