They might look like something out of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” but the gigantic light displays on Carmel Drive in Fairway East and Harriet Fisher Drive in Lawton Valley Hunt serve a greater purpose than setting records for electric usage.
The displays house the first-ever residential Salvation Army Red Kettles, allowing the homeowners who operate the light shows to capitalize on their success for a good cause.
What: Light displays to benefit the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Jan. 1
Where: Steve Scicchitano’s home is located at 5211 Harriet Fisher Drive, Clay, in Lawton Valley Hunt. Chris Hussak’s home is located at 4277 Carmel Drive, Liverpool, in Fairway East.
You can also drop off stocking stuffers for needy children; both families are collecting these for the Salvation Army as well.
Online donations can also be made to onlineredkettle.org/cnylights.
“This is the first time [a kettle has been placed] in a residential area,” said Steve Scicchitano, who owns the Lawton Valley Hunt home. “That’s a neat thing.”
The light shows have become a thing of local legend, drawing crowds from all over Central New York eager to take in the spectacle. Scicchitano started the display at his home about seven years ago, using the computer program Light-O-Rama to coordinate the moving lights to music, to which passers-by can listen by tuning into a radio station which is posted on a sign in the front yard. It’s best to pull over and enjoy the show rather than just drive by, Scicchitano said.
“People know that it continues on a loop,” he said. “You can tune into the radio stations, which we have posted on signs outside our houses, and listen for as long as you want.”
Hussak followed suit, creating his own display a couple of years later.
“Steve is the one who got me into this madness,” he said. “I got the bug and since then, I keep growing each year.”
Between the two of them, the displays have about 40,000 lights. The reason they’ve grown so large over the years, Hussak said, is to develop an audience big enough to really make a difference in Central New York.
“The main goal with the shows is to get to have a large enough following to use them to give back to the community in some way,” he said. “We talked about it last year, but by the time we got our act together, it was too late to go out and team up with a nonprofit. This year, we came together and did it. It’s a great opportunity. There’s more to us doing these than just freezing our keisters off and trying to have the best looking house in the neighborhood. It’s the perfect opportunity to give back.”
Hussak and Scicchitano researched area charities this year before deciding on the Salvation Army, which they felt was perfect for their effort.
“They just seemed to fit,” Hussak said. “All of their donations stay local, and they help so many children and families, especially during the holidays.”
“We typically do a lot of tabletop kettles in local businesses. Sometimes we have them in retail establishments. They’re just small kettles where we don’t have bell ringers,” said Greg Meitus, head of public relations and marketing for the Salvation Army. “This is the first time we’ve had a kettle at someone’s house. And they’re doing pretty well. I went out to the site, and they’ve raised about $184 so far as of Dec. 5. It’s neat.”
Collectively, Hussak and Scicchitano hope to raise $2,000 by Jan. 1
“We asked the Salvation Army, what’s a good goal?” Hussak said. “They said maybe $1,000. We decided to do $2,000, $1,000 each. We think that’s a good goal.”
In the future, both men hope to see the show move to a new location.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring it indoors in future years to a different venue, a Destiny or a Burdick,” Scicchitano said.
“We think we could reach a lot more people that way,” he said.
But this year, the focus is on raising as much money as possible for the Salvation Army.
“In the past, the idea was, build it and see who comes,” Scicchitano said. “Now, we do what we can, not to have the best house, but, as Chris said, to see how we can raise more money for the Salvation Army. It’s a definite change in focus.”
Regardless of how much money is raised, both men and their families are grateful to the community for their support, and they’re happy to be able to use their particular strengths to help a worthy cause.
“It’s a cool way to use our gifts and talents,” Hussak said.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.