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Popular rural Iowa light display extolls Frisian skyline

‘Dutch Christmas in the Country’

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

PELLA, Iowa - The mid-winter light display ‘Dutch Christmas in the Country’ which includes a Frisian village with eleven framed replicas of, among others, a barn, a 25-feet long church building with steeple, two double draw bridges, a 30-feet light house, a windmill and canal barge as well as skaters on a pond, continues to draw attention to the Pella-area acreage of Dutch-born John DeVries and his wife Alberta. The daily evening light show was started in 1992 and has become larger each year.

The rural light extravaganza which takes DeVries about four weeks to put up, consists of 130 decorated trees and wooden structures, together adorned with over 55,000 lights. Although much of the work is done by the 69-year old Frisian immigrant from Kollumerpomp, he does get some help with carrying the wood frames from oldest son Guy and a friend. Alberta usually gets the lights ready.

The village features several replicas from Kollumer-pomp and Wieringermeer’s Slootdorp where De Vries and his family lived before emigrating to Iowa in 1949. To appreciate the full dimension of the light show across two ponds in the yard, tourists should turn in to the farm driveway. The 2,5 acre front yard in addition to the two ponds also has an 80-ft canal, an ideal backdrop for a canal barge which also is a part of De Vries’s Dutch memories.

The show includes a number of angels up in the sky and about twenty doves. The angel figurines are mounted on top of 18-ft long 2x4s and each are outfitted with 100 lights. During the light show they appear to hoover over the acreage. The doves for extra effect, are placed in various flight-positions, giving it a real life effect to onlookers. These, and all other structures were created by De Vries who learnt carpentry and electrical work from after-hours jobs while a policeman.

The show includes sacred Christmas music. It has won tourism awards and has received publicity from local and Iowa state-wide newspapers, magazines, television and draws a steady stream of cars. A car counter on the freshly paved 24-feet wide and 300-feet long driveway keeps track of traffic volume: in the record year in one month over 7,500 cars and 30 tour buses turned into the driveway.