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Lake Worth neighbors become spirited competitors with holiday displays

Madeline Fox
Brian Bury and Kelli Killmer stand in front of Bury's decorated yard. Bury has been decorating the house on Woodland Creek Lane since 1995, and Killmer has been helping for the last three years.

This story originally aired in 2019.

This time of year, blow-up Santas inhabit Brian Bury's yard: Santa flying in a UFO, Santa wearing military fatigues, Santa throwing knives to outline a reindeer spinning on a target.

Then there's the giant dogs, the unicorn, the menagerie of Disney characters, the tree decked out with lights and ornaments and dozens more Christmas decorations.

So many, in fact, that the Lake Worth resident has maxed out his power capacity. Bury, an X-ray and CAT scan technician at a local hospital, asked an electrician he knew from work to install electrical boxes around his yard so he could tap into every circuit breaker.

“We’re at the point where we can’t add any more,” he said. “Checking with FP&L, it’s about $15,000 to have another electrical line brought in — so I thought, ‘I think I hit my limit.’”

Related: Does The Sunshine State Have Holiday Spirit? Study Says No. Does Your Home Say Otherwise?

Pushing all his circuits to the limit makes the extravagant display vulnerable to the elements. When it rains heavily, Bury said, the system is often knocked out. He said he’ll be out there at 5 a.m. after big storms, trying to get it all back up and running before a double shift at work.

He also gets by with a little help from his neighbors. Lawrence Tolmich and Paul Fundersol, who live across Woodland Creek Lane from Bury, came over to try to restore the decor when the rain brought some lights down during Bury’s vacation in Utah with his girlfriend.

Bury is grateful for the help – and more than a little delighted with the impact he’s had on those two neighbors, in particular.

“Because I’m doing it, my neighbors have increased their decorations, also,” he said.

Tolmich, who is Jewish, represents Hanukkah for the block. His yard features a lit-up “Happy Hanukkah” sign. A six-pointed Star of David crafted from blue tube lights and a handful of nails adorns his back fence. Next year, he said, he’s hoping to put a giant menorah on the roof, and wire it so he can light up the candles one at a time as the days of Hanukkah pass.

Tolmich has been delighted with the response from admirers.

“There's a few Jewish people in the neighborhood, and all they have is the menorah out there. They came by literally shaking my hand, [saying,] 'Thank you for representing the Jewish faith here like that,'" Tolmich said.

Credit Madeline Fox / WLRN
Lawrence Tolmich puts out Hanukkah decorations, as well as a few nondenominational winter pieces. His least favorite part is wrapping the palm trees, which he said exacerbates his fear of heights.

Tolmich moved to Woodland Creek nearly 20 years ago. At the time, he said, the menorah in his window was his only decoration visible from the street. Over the years, he started adding more.

“Then I started getting it up before Brian,” he recalled. “And Brian’s like, ‘Oh, okay, I see how it is: The Jewish kid got up the Christmas lights before I did. I got to step it up a little more, too.’”

The first decoration Bury puts up is his oldest, and his neighbors’ least favorite: a wooden cutout of Snoopy’s doghouse with a digital clock-style countdown to Christmas.

“All the neighbors will stop by and be like, ‘Oh, thanks a lot, you a-hole, for letting us know how close it is to Christmas. We hate that sign,'” Bury recounts with a chuckle.

Bury’s wooden sign may be the oldest, but both he and Tolmich are quick to point out that the king of wooden decorations is their other neighbor, Paul Fundersol. Fundersol, a newer arrival to Woodland Creek, uses a skill saw to cut letters and shapes out of wood, then wires them up with lights.

Fundersol said his attic has been given over entirely to Christmas decorations.

“This is basically for my daughter, because I didn't have this growing up,” he said. “I want her to experience it and have fun with it.”

He and Tolmich are planning an even bigger display for next year. They’re circumspect about the details, but their goal is to light up Lantana Road, which runs behind their homes.

“Next year we’re putting 10,000 lights on the back of the house,” Fundersol said. “We’re making a sign that will say something – I’m not going to tell anybody what yet – so all of Lantana will see it, and it will draw more people in.”

Credit Madeline Fox / WLRN
Tolmich shows off a paper-plate menorah made by the daughter of neighbor Paul Fundersol, in response to his Hanukkah decorations. He and Bury both get cards, notes and other things from neighbors and visitors who love their holiday light displays.

The neighborhood already gets a pretty good crowd of visitors, some of whom have been coming for years. Some will drive around the Woodland Creek loop, while others park their cars at the neighborhood park and walk it. Spectators have come from as far away as Canada.

Bury said he didn’t realize how much of a tradition it was to some families until he and his girlfriend, Kelli Killmer, were outside setting up the lights this year. 

“Multiple people were stopping by and saying how many years they’ve been coming here with their family on Christmas Day and before the holidays and looking at the lights,” he said.

Bury said people drop off cards and goodies every year in gratitude.

"They'll bake us cookies and brownies, and we get fruit baskets and things like that," he said. "Every year, we get children in the neighborhood that make us Christmas cards."

Bury's daughter bought a house this year, and he's planning to pass the torch to her. He has already started bringing some of his older decorations over to her new place and helping her arrange them.

Bury said this is his last big year. It was supposed to be last year, he said. But then Killmer moved in with him, “and I was like, how can I not have a big year this year?”

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