The streets of Ahwatukee are an absolute treasure trove of illuminated and decorated houses during the holiday season, including the yearly display at the home of Frank and Dianne Polimene.
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In the shadows of the nearby South Mountain, the landmark red lights of the peak's television towers shine in the darkness overhead as a sea of glowing merriment takes place in the couple's front yard.
The centerpiece of the display is a scale-sized Christmas train driven by Santa Claus, complete with a hot cocoa tank car, that chugs around a 100-foot-long track encircling the display. Built by Frank Polimene, a retired hardware store owner, it's activated by the push of a button (or from the flashing high beams of passing vehicles) and also has a flatcar that's periodically filled with candy canes for visitors by a automated loader.
Strands and lights: An estimated 17,000 lights.
Inflatables: None, but their next-door neighbor has a gigantic Santa Claus on his rooftop.
Other decorations: A dozen eight-foot-tall twinkling snowflakes are erected on the hill behind the house while an illuminated volcano belches smoke along the train tracks. Stuffed animals ride on a Ferris wheel, candy cane carousel, and teeter-totter. On top of the roof, a wooden cutout of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer tries to hoist Santa up to the chimney using a rope and pulley, and one of the garages is occupied by a life-sized interactive Saint Nicholas that sings and dances after being activated by clapping.
Estimated electric bill: "It's not so bad anymore," Frank says. "It used to be $300 a month, but since I switched over to CFLs [compact fluorescent lightbulbs] and LEDs, it's only an extra $120 a month."
Why do you decorate? "I really love Christmas, especially like seeing kids come up to watch the train and see the lights. I had a great childhood and many fun Christmases while growing up in Cleveland," Frank says. "I've been doing this sort of thing for 33 years - 21 of them while living in Phoenix. It gets larger each year and I'm slowly running out of 'stage' to build stuff on, so I don't know what I'm gonna do next year."
Frank and Dianne Polimene's holiday display is located at 541 East Mountain Sky Avenue in Ahwatukee. Hours are from 5-11 p.m. nightly through January 1. Click here for more info.