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Turlock man makes holiday cheer his annual mission
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Ron Detwiler (aka Santa Claus) has turned his Sycamore Street home into a Christmas wonderland with 25,000-bulb musical light show. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

As a kid Ron Detwiler considered it a festive Christmas if his family put up a tree, but now the Turlock resident is the steward of a holiday lights spectacular that has been thrilling young and old alike in Turlock for the last three years.

Detwiler has turned his Sycamore Street residence into a Christmas tribute resplendent with a tree, sleigh, candy canes, and nearly 25,000 lights sequenced to a musical score.

“My family all pitch in to make Christmas for adults and children a special one,” Detwiler said of the creation.

The family spends a good portion of the year planning out their design and start the actual set up around mid October, giving Detwiler’s electrician and son-in-law Chris Waller time to make sure all the sequencing is right before they flip the switches on the day after Thanksgiving.

“All of it has to be planned out and set up just so,” Waller said.

The Christmas spectacular began simply enough for the family with a Mr. Christmas kit that Detwiler set up to delight his then 2-year-old granddaughter Kimberly Waller.

“She just loved it so much that it inspired me to invest in what we have called ‘light-o-rama,’” Detwiler said.

What started out for Detwiler as a venture to put a smile on his granddaughter‘s face has turned into a gleeful mission to spread Christmas cheer. And of course no Christmas show would be complete without a visit from St. Nick himself.

“The kids that come by and talk to Santa are what makes this all worthwhile,” Detwiler said.

 While the visit with Santa brings smiles to the visiting children, it also warms the heart of the man behind the beard.

“Last year we had a little girl come by with her family. She had lost her sister earlier that year to cancer,” Detwiler said. “I heard her say she wanted a unicorn for Christmas so she could fly to the other side of the rainbow. Later, she came to sit on Santa’s lap and whispered in my ear that what she really wanted was to have her sister back. It tore at my heart. I had to tell her that Santa can’t do that request. That’s in God’s hands. I have been so amazed at how selfless most kids are.”

The show at 1441 Sycamore St. will be in operation each day through New Year's, weather permitting. The lights go on at 6 p.m. and the music can be found at 88.5 FM. There also is a Toys for Tots donation box at the residence.