The underbelly of Christmas light shows exposed

If more people in Minnesota knew how to have a good time without getting drunk, maybe the ginormous holiday light display in Minnetrista would still be lit.

But they don’t, so Ryan Kasper-Cook has pulled the plug, he tells KARE 11.

Up to 500 cars a night invade his neighborhood to see the show, and apparently that’s OK with the residents. It’s a new trend in Minnesota that’s causing problems: Party buses full of rowdy Christmas light fans.

“The visitors are usually pretty rowdy and intoxicated,” Kasper-Cook said.

He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

After careful consideration, our Minnetrista home in Minnesota will be ending the 2017 season early due to rowdy party…

Posted by Trista Lights on Sunday, December 17, 2017

The announcement has illuminated the dark side of Christmas light shows.

If any of this sounds appealing to you, Kasper-Cook says you can have his light show and he’ll set it up at your house.

Related: Is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” a Christmas Song?

  • “If any of this sounds appealing to you…”

    …you will enjoy Black Friday at Walmart.
    …you think Animal House is a documentary.
    …you put your application in for that party bus driver opening.

    …? (I’m sure you can add to this list.)

    • Rob

      …you enjoy being in family restaurants surrounded by bawling babies and tantrumy toddlers.

      • *shudders at the thought*

      • lusophone

        I can give the babies and toddlers a pass, but when the adults act like this, there’s no excuse.

        • Rob

          I love the sign I saw on a Phoenix restaurant door: “Unruly and disruptive children will be given an espresso and a free kitten.”

          • Jack

            And required to take said kitten home…..

          • lusophone

            My kids would ask to go there everyday.

  • Barton

    My internal “bah-humbug-ery” comes out when the “Christmas” light displays start. There is just something about them I find so… offensive (I guess that is the right word). So I actually enjoyed the article because they were stopping the light pollution, even if there was a definitely a big aspect of the rule: people suck.

    “Julie, we’re going to drive around town and look at light displays. Wanna come”
    “[Expletive deleted] no! Let me know what bar you end up in after and I’ll meet you there.”

    A bit Scrooge? Maybe for Grinch-ish? Whatever it is, I’ll own it.

    • Mike

      I don’t get it either. My idea of a good time at Christmas is whiskey and fudge by a roaring fire.

      I’ve gotten to where I avoid all large congregations of people when I possibly can. Are people more rude than they used to be, or does it just seem that way? Also – I learned a while ago that human behavior makes a lot more sense when you start thinking of us simply as “primates”. Imagine all those obnoxious behaviors coming from chimps, and suddenly it all becomes comprehensible.

      • Barton

        I’ll be joining you with whisky (Scotch for me) at that fire.

      • Rob

        Jalapeno fudge – yum!

      • Jack

        For those without an actual fireplace, check out the Yule log on TV.

        • Rob

          Yes – yule love it!

        • RBHolb

          That always makes me think of the Christmas episodes of “Corner Gas.”

      • RBHolb

        “My idea of a good time at Christmas is whiskey and fudge by a roaring fire.” Mine, too. Also, New Year’s, Easter, the 4th of July . . .

        I don’t know if people are more rude or if there is just an expectation amongst the rude that the rest of us are supposed to tolerate it. Without going into a “young people today” rant, I notice that people who are called on their rude behavior either push back, making it MY fault, or correct what they are doing with theatrical expressions of exasperation. They’re doing me a favor by behaving like civilized adults.

        • Mike

          Yeah, I don’t even see much generational difference in this. Some of the rudest people I’ve ever encountered were middle aged, like me, or older. I can forgive younger people for the kind of rudeness that comes with distraction (to a point), but I have a much harder time when it’s an older person. I expect more from them.

      • Another benefit of staying away from the mall and church is that you have less chance of catching the flu.

    • jon

      As a staunch supporter of the war on christmas (History will remember it as the “War of Christmas Overreach”, because history is written by the victors!) I can’t say I disagree…

      I don’t mind some simple lighting… a bit of color and light in these dark cloudy days around the solstice is fine by me. But the massive displays, and the yards that are simply packed with every plastic/inflatable decoration with every inch of the house covered in lights…. I don’t get the appeal… and I really don’t understand leaving them all dusk till dawn.

      I put up those icicle lights years back… then after actual icicles destroyed them I did nothing for years, this year at the bequest of my wife we put some of those net lights over the bushes… they turn on at dusk and usually shut down by ~9pm.

      If the lights take you more than 10-15 minutes to put up, you’ve done too much.

      • Rob

        Always good to meet a fellow foot-soldier in the war on Christmas. I did the 15-minute decoration thing with some icicle lights on our front deck railing. I find the ostentatious, energy-wasting holiday displays exceedingly dispiriting and crass, in a Bread and Circuses way.

        • Jack

          Maybe being a child of the energy crisis has something to do with it (or maybe I’m too frugal) but I don’t even own a string of lights.

          • Rob

            No lights at all? Then you’re definitely on Fox News’ Enemies of Christmas list.

          • Jack

            We were already there for many reasons. See my response on Bob’s next posting.

          • I didn’t put up any lights during the Iraq War. It seemed obscene to me that while U.S. soldiers were fighting for — let’s face it — preserving the flow of oil, putting up lights seemed a terrible idea. Then I got out of the holiday lights thing and went old school.

            You know what looks a lot better — and classier — than gaudy lights? A Christmas wreath your sister makes for your front door.

          • Jack

            Now that is decorating for Christmas!

      • MikeB

        I think this is the year that I actively take up the fight in the War on Christmas.

      • Lindsey

        Our HOA doesn’t allow lights more than 30 days before or after the holiday, which I appreciate. I won’t say that it was a reason to choose my house, but it doesn’t hurt.

        • Jack

          But do they allow the projected lights – you know the snowflakes and colors that Menards has been pitching on TV? Those to me are even worse than the running lights. If you have to do lights, do the ones that just are on with no music or movement.

          • Barton

            I had my 1st experience with those this year. A neighbor has a light show going ALL NIGHT LONG! So when I walked to the train last week (5:50am) there were these little white lights skittering along the sidewalk then up the trees. I thought I was have an aphasia moment and was worried I was going to pass out (if you’ve ever passed out, you sometimes see such lights). I finally figured out it was one of those light machines but not before a good 10 seconds of panic.

            I don’t walk past that house anymore.

          • Lindsey

            I don’t know, but none of my neighbors have them, so I would guess not…or maybe they don’t work in connected townhomes?

            Either way, those are definitely obnoxious.

            What’s wrong with a tasteful small display? We don’t need to be Clark Griswald.

          • Postal Customer

            I have two different projector thingies. They’re great. I stick em in the ground, plug em in, and I’m done. No ladders, no nails, no swearing. Plus, they look cooler.

    • RBHolb

      TIL I’m not the only person who feels this way.

      It used to be fun to see some of the bigger, gaudier displays. You had to wonder about the energy and creativity poured into something that just looks fun.

      Now, things have gone too far. I think I realized this when we saw a house that had a low-power radio transmitter broadcasting “seasonal” tunes for spectators’ car radios (scare quotes because “Last Christmas” is not a Christmas song). Then came the inevitable television reality show competition. The creative outlet of a few hobbyists has turned into another excuse for wretched excess.

      Bah, humbug indeed.

      • That big display down on York Avenue in St. Paul asks people to bring canned goods and food for a food shelf.

      • We have one of those in our neighborhood. There’s a big lighted sign telling the “audience” the frequency, but they still have outdoor speakers anyway. We have to take our doggos on a different route for their evening stroll in order to avoid the traffic. Like most of these things, it’s a mishmash of random lights and blow-ups without any real theme.

  • AL287

    Every Christmas Eve from the time I could walk until the family weddings started, we would go to my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve and receive our Christmas presents and then drive through Baton Rouge to look at the lights in the various neighborhoods before heading home to bed to wait for Santa.

    We always got our Christmas tree from Kiwanis at the Memorial Stadium lot until they shut it down in the early 70’s.

    Nobody cutting in line. No drunk people. No loud music. Just family tradition and delightful displays at individual houses.

    I had given some thought to driving through the Rotary Lights display in La Crosse at Riverside Park with my son and his family. I am hoping this sort of thing isn’t repeated there.

    I’m not surprised anymore by the behavior of younger generations. Not all of them are like this idiot mentioned in the post but there are enough of them to give that generation an undeserved bad name.

    My recommendation is to have a relaxing ride and pick a near distant small town for your light viewing with the kids and avoid the large neighborhood displays altogether. I love driving through the main street because most if not all have pole displays on every street light.

    Bigger is not necessarily better.

    • jon

      Yes, millennials are terrible… boomers are the paragon of virtue…

      Heard it all before, debunked it all before… It’s not a generational thing, it’s an individual thing and saying it’s a generational thing just makes it look like your memories of what was said about boomers 40-50 years back is failing.

      • AL287

        I did not say Millennials are terrible. I said a few bad apples allow people to generalize and stereotype them as “terrible.”

        Just because you didn’t grow up with happy Christmas memories doesn’t give you the right to destroy mine or anyone else’s for that matter.

        Put down the smart (dumb) phone and enjoy a little Christmas cheer.

        Turn all the technology off and spend some time Christmas caroling or volunteer at the local food shelf.

        The Christmas season is not about shopping, who has the biggest light display or which generation celebrated it better.

        It’s not a competition.

        Bah! humbug to you, too.

        • KariBemidji

          As a volunteer manager, I get a little Grinchy this time of year (see above comment). If you really want to celebrate “the reason for the season” volunteer the whole damn year! Our food shelves, meals on wheels, hospitals, nursing homes need volunteers all year not just in December when you need to feel good about yourself.

          • AL287

            I do volunteer. For Mobile Menders which just started up in August and now has over 100 volunteers.

            We do mending services for homeless shelters, senior centers and other outreach services.

            I’ve also worked as a volunteer cantor for the Catholic Church in various town and cities for the last 45 years.

            I think there is a volunteer manager out there that needs some time off.

          • Jack

            I also volunteer regularly at the Food Group in New Hope. Hunger is year around. You also meet the nicest co-volunteers. Hey Karen – thanks for the tip on the local yarn shop!

          • KariBemidji

            I do and I am. It’s really fun and puts me in the holiday spirit to be yelled at when I tell someone that they can’t just come in and rock babies on Christmas day (this happened last year on the 22nd).

            Thank you for volunteering in your community!

        • jon

          //Just because you didn’t grow up with happy Christmas memories doesn’t give you the right to destroy mine or anyone else’s for that matter.

          So who the hell gave you the right to both define my christmas memories as not being happy, and then tell me that I don’t have the right to tell you what yours were! (when that was never attempted!)


          Now, let’s stop talking about the younger generation, and ask what kind of hate filled monster would attack some one else’s memories of christmas when they know NOTHING about them…

          If we are talking about bad apples… look in a mirror… now put down the smart phone or laptop or what ever you are using to comment and go do something good instead of trying to tell other people how they should feel….

          • Jack

            Time for everyone to step back and remember the reason for the season or peace on earth, good will to humankind.

    • >>I’m not surprised anymore by the behavior of younger generations. Not all of them are like this idiot mentioned in the post but there are enough of them to give that generation an undeserved bad name.<<

      Said every older generation ever.

    • Rob

      Damn millennial punks.

    • Greg W

      I also would have accepted, “Do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants!”
      You know, because of the booze and vomit everywhere.

      • lusophone

        That’s why we have ants in our house?

      • Too cold for ants.


      • Rob

        I always make ant logs for Xmas snacks : )

  • QuietBlue

    It sounds like it was pretty lit alright, just not the kind of lit the homeowner intended.

  • KariBemidji

    Every year, I feel more and more like the parallel universe Grinch. My heart shrinks three sizes during the Christmas season, especially when hearing of people like this.

    • Jack

      You aren’t the only one. I prefer to keep the holiday quiet and ponder the first Christmas. We are the unlit house on the block. Spend the day reaching out to friends and family.

  • Ben Chorn

    I think the bigger issue is how acceptable binge drinking has become.

    As the old saying goes, “In college it’s called getting drunk, after college its called being an alcoholic.”

    • Joseph

      I’ve actually never heard that saying before, but it’s a good one….

    • Barton

      That is a very good point. There seems to be a very thin line between “social drinking” and “binge drinking.”

      It only took my 21st birthday to cure me of the need to binge drink – not saying I don’t drink or that I haven’t been drunk since, but not for the sole purpose of getting blasted since that night.

  • johnepeacock

    TIL I learned that there’s such a thing as riding in a party bus to see a christmas light show. Who knew?

    • Greg W

      No kidding! I was astounded by the idea until I realized that it provided another avenue for people to drink and be obnoxious.

    • Alex

      We’ll know we’re in serious trouble when a Pedal Pub shows up for the lights.

  • Dan

    My folks are going to be in town and I’d like to take them to see some lights. In their hometown, there’s a park with a drive-through display — not a show synced to music or anything. It sounds like Phalen used to have something similar, put on by the St Paul Police Federation, but they’re not doing it anymore. Haven’t found anything else like that yet. I might just find have to look for a neighborhood that’s supposed to have the good stuff and drive through there.

    Getting boozed up on a party bus to see Christmas lights just would never have occurred to me. I’m by no means an angel in this regard — there was a time I thought that just about everything went better with lots of drinking. For some reason, the idea of pairing Christmas lights with getting wasted leave me both puzzled and slightly grossed out.

    I googled one of the party bus sites, it says “family friendly”. Just above “BYOB allowed”.

    • I recall when we first moved here, there was an older gentleman on Johnson Prkwy in St. Paul who put out a ton of decorations and would stand outside and wave at people as they drove by to see.

      The computers and glitz and light shows are fascinating, too, but nothing will ever approach the spirit like the guy on Johnson Parkway.

    • Lindsey

      The Minnesota Arborteum has lights and decorations (it’s not free, but it does look pretty cool).

      • I believe that’s put together by the same guy.

    • Jerry

      I thought the Phalen display was put on by the electricians’ union.

      And I would think that there is a different substance that would go well with lighting displays instead of alcohol. Kind of a low rent version of Laser Floyd.

  • lusophone

    I like Christmas lights. I like shiny objects. I can’t say I’ve ever felt offended by anyone’s light display. I think the lights help us get through this dark time of the year.

    We all need to calm down a bit and try to give each the benefit of the doubt.

    I’m not really a religious person, but this is my take. Is someone blocking your view of the pretty lights? Instead of picking a fight, maybe ask yourself, WWJD?

    • Kassie

      Thank GOD someone on here isn’t a grinch. I love Christmas. I love Christmas decorations and I especially love Christmas/holiday lights. Minnesota is so dreary in the winter and lights make is so much prettier. I love everything from one string around one tree to a classy professionally done yard to that awesome house on 35th near Hiawatha with the blow up characters. I love it all!

      • Barton

        I LOVE Christmas – snow, the tree, Santa, the actual event of Jesus’ birth, carols, cheesy music and holiday specials.

        I just don’t like the lights – I think they are too much one-up-manship and competition and “hey! look how much waste I can make!”

        • Rob

          I always look forward to the spicy party mix

        • There was a time when these folks had to entirely rewire their home electrical systems. I wonder how much difference the advent of LEDs has made?

          • Jerry

            The energy savings are apparently amazing with the led lights. I think I heard that the Griswald’s display from Christmas Vacation would cost thousands of dollars with the old bulbs, and $40 with LEDs.

          • Postal Customer

            But LEDs are still inexplicably way more expensive. Plus I don’t think they look as nice as incandescents.

          • Jerry

            At least rope lights went away

          • RBHolb

            It’s a stock scene in every “family” Christmas movie: Dad wants a big light display, so he ends up putting so many lights on the house that he (heh, heh) blacks out the entire neighborhood.

            About 35 minutes later, he learns that Christmas isn’t about who has the flashiest decorations or who gets the most gifts.

    • Rob

      Not sure Jesus would be a big fan of the gaudy light displays.

      • lusophone

        Yeah, you might be right. I did say I wasn’t very religious, so I’m not sure what he did for fun. Or maybe he just ended up in the western suburbs helping out a poor house cleaner in need. I’ve heard you can find Jesus in the most unlikeliest of places.

        • Kellpa07

          I heard Jesus, he drank wine,
          I guess we’d get along just fine
          He could calm a storm and heal the blind
          and I bet he’d understand a heart like mine

      • Jerry
  • Mike Worcester

    Would it be worth finding out (if even possible?) who was organizing these bus tours — group of individuals, bar, club, etc. — and let them know that thanks to their ineptutitde, the community lost a fun and inviting event designed for everyone? Maybe not but there are those rare occasions where guilt can get folks to change their behaviors.

  • Jerry

    I love Christmas lights. Tacky ones, well done ones, it doesn’t matter. It helps to make up for the fact it gets dark here at 4:30 in December.

    • Rob

      Christmas in Phoenix is an excellent antidote. Gets dark early there too of course, but much easier to take at the end of a sunny, 70- degree day.

      • Jerry

        A 70 degree, sandy Christmas would just seem wrong to my cold scandanavian heart.

        • Jack

          We visited Florida one Christmas when I was a kid, it just wasn’t the same.

          Spent two Christmas’s in Africa – that’s where I picked up a new tradition of visiting friends and family instead of giving presents. The gift of conversation with loved ones is priceless. Oh yeah – there was no snow over there either but was definitely better than Florida.

          • Jerry

            I think part of the problem is that it seems that people in the southern U.S. still often try to have a “traditional New England Christmas” which doesn’t adapt well to cactus and palm trees.

          • Rob

            Forget Florida. Try the Southwest.

        • Rob

          Very Grinch-y of you. : )

    • Kassie

      Clearly we are prefect together.

  • Carol S.

    i don’t mind the Christmas lights. My issue is that the day after Christmas, much of this stuff comes down (usually in retail; probably not so much in neighborhoods, but people often do turn the lights off after Christmas).

    Christmas season runs until Epiphany, January 6. Those are the “twelve days of Christmas.” They come AFTER Christmas, not before.

    My husband and I celebrate mid-December birthdays, and so don’t do ANY Christmas stuff until after December 15. I’m actually just starting to get into the Christmas spirit just in time to see Valentine’s Day displays go up in the stores. I know this is my own doing, but I sometimes just wish we (society) wouldn’t rush things so much. Without all the stress and frantic doings, the time after Christmas can be a really nice time to enjoy the decorations, lights included.

    • QuietBlue

      Yeah, I’ve long wondered how many of the “war on Christmas”/”reason for the season” types took their stuff down on the 26th when there was still eleven days to go. We put our stuff up a couple of weeks ago, and that was on the early side for us. We usually keep everything up a ways into January.

      • jon

        I was wondering if I should pull the plug on my lights tomorrow after winter solstice.

    • John

      Ours typically all come down the weekend following Christmas. I typically have time to do a cleanup then, so I take advantage of it. By January 6th, we’re back in full busy mode.

  • Jeff

    This year we put up a 20 ft tall martini glass complete with toothpick and olive on the hill behind the house. We built it out of PVC pipe and rope lights. It’s awesome (I don’t mind saying). So far it hasn’t attracted any party buses but we live away from town in the far northern suburbs. No complaints from the neighbors.

    • Rob

      As a martini aficionado, I wholeheartedly approve.

    • Do you have a photo of said glass?

      • Jeff

        I have one I took with my older generation iPhone which doesn’t do it justice. I’ll try and get a better one with my fancy camera and post it here tomorrow.

  • Mike

    I like the lights. Tasteful to garish, I don’t really care. The darkness of this time of the year becomes harder and harder to get through as the years pass. The lights, to me, are a reminder of hope, rebirth, and of the light to come. I hope the few lights we put up in our yard make a few people happy. If the party bus wants to swing by to take a look, so be it. At least they are being responsible and aren’t driving.

    • Rob

      Gotta put In another plug for Christmas in Phoenix. Guaranteed sun, and when you’re cruising in the high desert in a convertible Camaro SS,
      that is celebrating the holiday in style!

  • Brian Simon

    The boozing certainly doesn’t help, but the whole idea of drawing traffic & busses into residential neighborhoods for light shows is offensive to me. I’m glad none of my neighbors are doing it.

  • theoacme

    There’s a cure for those madding crowds…

    …I can walk to the house with some friends, knock, and sing a couple Christmas carols (and, folks, no one, even after a fifth of vodka, would think we sang like Cantus!)…

    …then come back the next night, dressed and made up differently, do more carols…

    …rinse and repeat until the crowds leave, or until Mike Freeman has to apologize to the BCA for commenting publicly about their failing to properly investigate my unwarranted murder by the police…

  • Richard Strauss

    A red light and a green light, one either side of a garage door, is plenty. Take down before iceout to avoid drunken boaters crashing into your garage door.

  • ForrestalMN

    Ahhhh, life in the ‘burbs…

    • One of the things that is being overlooked in all the judgemental stuff is that a lot of these light shows raise money for charity or food for food shelves.