More than 300,000 lights adorn the home and property of Bob and Diane Hanley, owners of the Christmas Ranch in Cleveland. Although the Hanleys have decorated their home for three decades, this year they were selected as one of the properties to be featured on ABC’s Great Christmas Light Fight.
The show featuring the Hanleys’ Christmas Ranch was set to air the evening of Nov. 26 on KTRK-13 in Houston. However, because of a Monday night football game featuring the Houston Texans, the show will be preempted and aired around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27. Anyone who wishes to watch the show will need to stay up late or set their DVR to record the show.
Diane Hanley said she is disappointed that the Houston area will not be able to view the show during its normal time slot but she is happy the Christmas Ranch was selected for the show.
“They called us and asked if we would like to be on the show. Then they came out and did a video for us,” Diane said of the Light Fight’s production team.
The Hanleys began their Christmas light displays about 33 years ago while living in Huntsville.
“I asked Bob to put up lights around the house one year. He did exactly what I said. Each year, he put up more and more,” Diane said. “We moved to Cleveland 23 years ago, in part, because we wanted more space for our Christmas lights and we wanted to live in the country.”
By the time they moved from their Huntsville subdivision, the Hanleys’ home had become a draw for people wanting to see Christmas lights.
“We had a nice display that people drove into the subdivision to see. When we moved to Cleveland, and because we live off a highway, we put up our light display with a sign that invited people to drive through the property to see the lights,” Diane said. “The road is too busy for people to pull over. That’s why we created the drive-through.”
Twenty days before Thanksgiving weekend, when the lighted display is first illuminated for the holiday season, the Hanleys, with the help of church youths and friends, begins the painstaking process of putting up the light displays and erecting Big Red (a 27-foot tall red reindeer). Big Red has become such a popular feature of the display that he inspired a book to be written about him. The self-published book by Danny Cennamo and Adrian Cennamo is titled “Big Red: The Father of Santa’s Reindeer” and is available on Amazon.com.
In addition to Big Red, some of the favorite displays are Dino and Spike, two enormous dinosaurs that are a year-round fixture on the Hanleys’ property, a Harley-riding Santa Claus, a ferris wheel, and Bevo, the University of Texas mascot.
“This year we added some new things. We have two 30-foot tall soldiers greeting you as you come in. Each soldier has a little over 5,000 lights,” Diane said.
The soldiers were part of a number of Christmas decorations that the Hanleys picked up from the old Foley’s store in downtown Houston.
“They were part of panels that are 30-feet tall and include Santa’s castle. We have all these panels that still need work before we can put them out. My husband has no hobbies, so he will be busy with this for a while,” said Diane, adding that she hopes more parts of the Foley’s panels will be added to the Christmas Ranch next year.
The Christmas Ranch decorations are a labor of love for the Hanleys. They make no profit from the display. In fact, they spend a significant amount of money keeping the house illuminated while the display is up.
When asked if their utility bill skyrockets in November and December, Diane said, “We don’t like to say how much it costs. It’s not as bad as people think. Our light bill has gone down by half since we started using LED lights.”
The Christmas Ranch will be open every night through New Years Day. Santa will make an appear on the Saturdays in December leading up to Christmas. The dates are Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22. He and Mrs. Claus will be greeting guests and posing for photos between the hours of 6-8 p.m. Parents are encourage to bring a camera or use their cell phones for photos.
The property has no restrooms or amenities, so guests are encouraged to plan ahead.
The Christmas Ranch is located at 14651 FM 1725, a short six-mile drive outside of Cleveland. Entry into the Ranch is free, though guests are encouraged to make a donation at the end of the drive-through light feature. All donations go toward St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Cleveland, where the Hanleys attend services.
The audition tape for Great American Light Fight, as well as more information and updates, are posted on the Christmas Ranch Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ChristmasRanch.TX/
By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org