Holiday Lights: Frank and Dianne Polimene's Santa Train in Ahwatukee

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

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.

The Numbers: 

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.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.