Mark Koran and family have something special to share this Christmas season.
Consider it a gift, a free one at that, for those in search of a light display that families often times bundle up the kids and line up in traffic for on Christmas Eve. Adorned with 20,000-plus lights and nearly 300 figurines, there’s something for everyone in this long-time family tradition just 5 miles east of downtown North Branch at 35855 Lincoln Road.
Koran said he was just 5 years old when he began helping his grandfather with the display, which the elder started in 1958 at home in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. By 15, he took over setting up the display, traditionally occurring at Thanksgiving time.
“I still have his original stuff from then,” Koran said of his grandparent’s nativity scene and Santa with sleigh and reindeer set.
When his grandfather passed away in 1998, Koran moved the entire light display to his house in St. Paul. Another move took place in 2007, once the kids graduated from high school, when he and wife Cindy opted for the small town life with a new home in rural North Branch.
“We love it here,” he noted. “When I don’t travel for my (banking) job, I office at home, and my wife works here, too. We’re closer to family who also moved north, so we kind of followed them.”
Still, the constant has been the light display for the Korans, who have made it a bigger and brighter show over the years. Mark and Cindy’s three grown boys have been a big help, and so has 4-year-old granddaughter Gracie who is the “official light tester,” smiled Mark, remembering he had the same job duty when he was her age.
Koran said he typically starts the process with checking the display’s wiring, lights and other components to assure they’re working a month before Thanksgiving, “unless we build something like the castle and 22-foot tree that we did this year.” This is also the family’s first experience with computer automation, which can be seen in the 13-foot trees that dance back and forth with a fading effect along the front tree line that parallels County Road 14.
The set-up consists of approximately 4,000 feet of power cords, 600 extension cords, just over 21,000 lights and 300 different ornaments and figurines — including toy soldiers from the Nutcracker, snowmen, choir and nativity scenes, Disney characters and, of course, Santa and his little elves. The centerpiece above it all is truly unique, but that’s for visitors to discover for themselves.
“It takes a lot to put up, maintain and take down,” he said. “The electricity is the least expensive part of the display.”
The Korans have their light display open to the public 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday now until Jan. 6. People are especially encouraged to enter the driveway and follow the lighted arrows and candles in a counter-clockwise loop that surrounds the display in the front yard.
The drive-through feature allows people to see the display closer and make Co. Rd. 14 safer, Koran noted.
Last year, some visitors even honked in appreciation, and one little girl remembered when waiting for the same recognition this year. “My granddaughter asked me, ‘Papa, how come the people aren’t honking yet?’” Koran said. “It’s a blast for people. Kids will require their parents to pass through every time.”
Koran keeps his light display going out of love for his grandparents, his own family and the magic of the Christmas season, which is going to be extra special this year with 1-month-old granddaughter Evelyn and a third grandchild due in a matter of days.
“Christmas is always incredibly special because of my grandparents,” Mark said. “To go to that house on Christmas Eve and see everything lit up and hear the old Christmas songs, it made the day fun and eventful. It creates something you can’t imagine. We did this for our own kids and grandchildren. We have another granddaughter due in two weeks, so we’ll have a nice early Christmas present. It has reinvigorated our kids with them having kids.”
On sharing the light display with others, “It’s a dying tradition, so it’s good to keep it going,” he added.
If you go…
The Koran family welcomes the public to their Christmas light and figurine display now through Jan. 6, from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Directions from downtown North Branch: head east on Main Street/Hwy. 95 and take a right (south) on Grand Avenue at the four-way stop. Next, turn left on Lincoln Road/Co. Rd. 14 and continue east for just under 5 miles. Watch for the automated tree light display (you can’t miss it at night) on the left.
Visitors are encouraged to pull into the driveway and take the counter-clockwise loop around the display in the front yard. Just follow the lighted arrows and colorful candles along the way.
Got the ‘light’ stuff?
Readers, if you or your neighborhood has an outdoor light display that you think the community would enjoy visiting, share your address with the Post Review and be part of a listing to be published later this month.
Drop us an email at [email protected], call 651-674-2101 or visit our office at 6241 Main St., Suite 103, inside the Lake State Federal Credit Union building across from Central Park, in downtown North Branch.
— Slideshow photos, above, by Jon Tatting