Jerry Beck and his family decorate their Clinton home with more than 30,000 lights and handmade decorations every year. More than 1,400 people came to see it in 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Jerry Beck and his family decorate their Clinton home with more than 30,000 lights and handmade decorations every year. More than 1,400 people came to see it in 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Couple’s 30,000 Christmas lights

Annual holiday light show at Clinton home is a tradition for many

A news helicopter was flying over Whidbey Island to survey a windstorm that knocked out power to most of the region a few years ago, when suddenly the crew saw a light in the distance.

Make that thousands of lights.

Standing out in an ocean of darkness, more than 30,000 Christmas lights were beaming below in Clinton.

It was the home of the Beck family, who had hooked up their incandescent display to a powerful generator. Not even a pesky storm could keep them from providing their island neighbors with a beacon of holiday spirit, as they have every year since 1996.

“If we stop doing it, there’s going to be a lot of disappointed people,” said Jerry Beck, who owns an electrical contracting business on Whidbey Island. “We want to give back to our community.”

Jerry and Lois Beck of Clinton. (South Whidbey Fire/EMS)

Jerry and Lois Beck of Clinton. (South Whidbey Fire/EMS)

See Jerry and Lois Beck’s 22nd annual drive-through light show for yourself through Dec. 31. This year’s display features 34,000 lights and more than a dozen plywood cutouts hand-painted and arranged into Christmas-y scenes. If you’re not already on Whidbey, it’s definitely worth the ferry ride over.

You’ll know you’ve found the place when you see the night sky glowing up ahead. You’ll first see a telephone pole wrapped in colorful lights. In the driveway is a plywood snowman wearing a red scarf. Once you find the house, tune into the Becks’ very own radio station set up so passersby can listen to Christmas carols.

Take the roundabout so you can see all of the bright lights and plywood characters, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Linus among colorful Charles Schulz-like trees.

Look for the vintage decorations, including a set of blow-molded snowmen and carolers backlit by a small Christmas tree.

Jerry Beck and his family decorate their Clinton home with more than 30,000 lights and handmade decorations every year and keep it open for the public is view. About 1,400 people come see it every year. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Jerry Beck and his family decorate their Clinton home with more than 30,000 lights and handmade decorations every year and keep it open for the public is view. About 1,400 people come see it every year. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

You also can’t miss the 60-foot-tall evergreen on the one-acre property, illuminated with strobe lights and decked out in candy canes and bells. It comes into view as you drive around the back.

Nearby are penguin cutouts frolicking in the snow, a shed lit in green and blue that serves as a Seattle Seahawks shrine and a plywood nativity scene in a goat pen, where you can also see live goats.

At the end of the driveway is a donation bin for the Good Cheer Food Bank in Langley and Ryan’s House for Youth in Coupeville.

The Becks change their layout every year to keep things fresh. The only thing that stays the same is the rope of green lights that cordons off the yard to keep cars off the grass.

Their driveway is teardrop-shaped, allowing drivers to circle the property as many times as they want — which they do.

They said one family that visits every year first stops by Dairy Queen and then circles the Becks’ displays again and again until the kids finish their peppermint milkshakes.

“That just makes you smile,” Lois Beck said.

Blow-mold snowmen are among the first things visitors see when they visit the Becks’ annual Christmas light show. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Blow-mold snowmen are among the first things visitors see when they visit the Becks’ annual Christmas light show. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The “oohs” and “ahhs” from adults and occasional screams of joy from kids never fail to amuse them. They try to turn their indoor lights off at night so as to not ruin the outdoor light show for visitors. They’ve decorated their house for so many years the next generation now stops by to check out the lights.

Jerry Beck strings up the lights himself. (His family helps.) His dad taught him how when he was a boy growing up in 1960s Northern California. He remembers the neighbors were worried that a 7-year-old was hanging lights on a two-story roof.

“I thought it was totally normal,” he said.

Jerry and Lois moved to Clinton in 1994. Jerry joined the local fire department as a volunteer, eventually rising to the rank of captain of the station down the street from their home. He retired in 2016.

The couple decided early on that if they were going to put in the effort of turning their home into a holiday extravaganza, the community should have the chance to see it.

“The point is to get people to drive through and share this experience with their kids,” Jerry Beck said.

So the Becks dropped flyers off at local businesses with directions to the display. Through the years, the number of visitors has grown — there were 1,454 in 2017 — as has the light show itself.

Their family of six sets up the lights and decorations starting in October. The display is ready by Thanksgiving. It helps that Jerry Beck is a master electrician.

They’ll have a $600 electric bill by the time they take the lights down, but Jerry and Lois don’t mind. They say they’re paid back in full by the smiles the lights bring.

IF YOU GO: What: The Becks’ Christmas light show When: Through Dec. 31, 6 to 9 p.m. daily Where: 6504 Robin Lane, Clinton Cost: Free

Lois Beck made handmade plywood cutouts of Charlie Brown, Linus and Snoopy for the light show. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lois Beck made handmade plywood cutouts of Charlie Brown, Linus and Snoopy for the light show. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

More in Life

‘Prelude to a Kiss’ explores life and love with a touch of fairy dust

Soul swappping at heart of WICA’s romantic comedy

SWHS 2019 valedictorian Carli Newman
Looking back, moving forward

Two top graduates at South Whidbey High School, Class of 2019

Langley Whale Center putting spotlight on authors June 22

Langley Whale Center invites the community to meet authors at the “Spotlight… Continue reading

Seeing the big picture: Shutter Sisters exhibit will raise funds for nonprofits

Not sisters by blood, but sisters connected by a shared passion and… Continue reading

Art & About: June offers wide variety of art shows

FIRST SATURDAY Langley Art Walk is 5-7 p.m, Saturday, June 1. Galleries… Continue reading

Teens face emotional and earthly turmoil in Bayview exhibit

‘Art with a Message’ packs a visual punch of youth perception

Mark Sargent of Whidbey Island is on the screen with Texas YouTuber Patricia Steere as she broadcasts “The Flat Earth and Other Hot Potatoes” from her Houston home. The two also share cameo roles (and some sexual tension) in the documentary “Behind the Curve” which was picked up by Netflix. (Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle)
Netflix picks up Flat Earther documentary

Mark Sargent recently returned from a speaking engagement in New Zealand. To… Continue reading

Serving up summer

Cocktail and food recipes to savor the season

SWHS Drama Club presents a classic tale of family, fortune, heart and humor

‘You Can’t Take It With You’ on stage May 24-26

Orrin Gorman McClellan’s words of war resonate beyond his death

‘A Soldier’s Journal, Last Supper to No Goodbye’ chronicles combat’s invisible wounds

Animated Army dog film kicks off vet center fundraiser

‘Sgt. Scubby, an American Hero’ coming to Clyde Theatre Sunday

Savor Spring offers palate pleasers of local wine, spirits and food

Six tasting locations featured this weekend on South Whidbey