Special Christmas Edition Story
By Taylor Clyne
TUCKED away in the back hills of Springfield on an unassuming country road is every child’s Christmas dream.
By daylight you’d never know what festive wonderland awaits you but come nightfall during December the Bowen’s house is lit up in a dazzling and detailed display of Christmas spirit.
What started close to three decades ago as a bit of decorating for the children has grown into the most iconic light display in the North-East.
The lady behind it all, Joanne Bowen said her addiction to Christmas started with just one set of lights and some plastic Santas on the front of the house.
“Christmas comes first in our household, it’s the best time of the year. I do it because I like to and I love seeing the lights, I used to sit over at the neighbour’s house and watch my own lights,” she laughed.
Joanne said it was the year 2000 when her display kicked up a gear,
“They had a competition in Scottsdale, so I decided to go big and I covered the whole roof in lights.”
Joanne of course won the competition and with it a $500 voucher to Woolworths which she kept to buy more lights and make her display even larger.
And that she did. During the past thirty years Joanne and her three daughters, Aleta, Simone and Deyarna have created a wonderland of Christmas for the entire community to enjoy.
“I’d hate to put a figure on how much we’ve spent, definitely over $20,000, it’s not cheap but I’m not silly about it. Some years I spend a lot and others I don’t but each year I try to buy one or two new things,” Joanne said.
The process of installing the display begins on Scottsdale Show weekend in November every year and takes roughly three weeks to complete.
“I bash nails and screws into anywhere, I used to get up on the roof and screw every row where you see lights.
“The shed is like a Christmas light supermarket, we have every box numbered and we number the transformer, so I know which plug goes where.”
“The girls help me, it’s a big job. We’ve learnt to secure them down really well after having a few years where the weather's blown everything over.
“In about September, October people start asking what I’ll create, and I think 'oh god,' then you get to bed and all of a sudden all this stuff goes through your head of ideas and the next thing you wake up and you’re putting them up.”
At last count there were more than 20,000 light globes in the display covering the entire roof of the house, each window, the whole front fence and every spare space in the backyard.
Joanne said in terms of the power cost, they don’t notice the difference.
“It cost more to buy the lights than it does to run them,” she said.
“I did once get a letter in the mail with $10 in it to go towards the power and a note that said, ‘thank you for the enjoyment that you bring.’ I’ve still got it.”
The light show is not the only attraction at the Bowen household during December. During Christmas week Joanne’s daughter Aleta dresses as Santa and greets visitors up until the big day.
“The last 18 years we’ve dressed up as Santa for the five days before Christmas to hand out lollies; some nights Aleta will sit out there until midnight or until I drag her inside.
“Christmas week is always very busy; one Christmas Eve we had more than 300 people visit. “The backyard gets so full you can barely move and the traffic banks up,” Joanne said.
Joanne had Aleta’s Santa suit custom made, it cost $400 and it is the real deal.