Family's Light Show Strengthens Bonds, Holiday Spirit

Dec 10, 2018

An Ulster County family is continuing its tradition of a holiday light show that attracts visitors from near and far. The Sussin Family Christmas Light Show in Saugerties is a father-son production that has both kids and adults wide-eyed and in a festive mood. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne walked through the display on a frigid December night, which did not freeze anyone’s spirits.

“Take me to your favorite place in this whole display,” Dunne says.

“I’ll bring you to the sleigh," says Zachary Sussin. "This sleigh we bought, it was really old and falling apart. Me and my dad brought it home. So we took it apart and just basically rebuilt it, and now it’s this Santa’s sleigh that everyone gets to takes pictures in.”

“And that’s your favorite,” says Dunne.

“Yes, it’s a project me and my dad both worked on,” says Sussin. “So that’s why it’s my favorite.”

“How long have you been doing this?” asks Dunne.

“We’ve been doing the display for six years now. This’ll be, yeah, it’s our sixth year. It started out very small and just every year it’s grown,” says Sussin. “We buy more and more on sale and whatever, and it’s just grown into this.”

That’s Zachary Sussin, standing in front of the sleigh where Santa is a big draw.

“My favorite part is the reaction that the kids have when they come and see, and just the way their faces literally light up,” says Santa. “It’s just unbelievable.”

“It’s so awesome,” Ostrander says.

That’s 8-year-old Katie Ostrander, who was keeping warm with her blinking holiday ear muffs.

“I wanted a Seat Pet, and I forgot what else, and also L.O.L. dolls,” says Ostrander.

Benjamin Fenton, aka Santa, hails from the North Pole village of Fleischmanns, in Delaware County. It’s his third year in the sleigh.

“The iPhone X seems to be very popular, the L.O.L. dolls, but, my favorite request so far, a little girls asked for a doll set complete with all the doctor equipment so that she could play doctor with her doll,” Fenton says. “That’s my favorite one I’ve heard so far.”

“World peace? No,” Dunne says.

“No, no world peace,” says Fenton.

The light show is jammed onto the Sussins’ three-quarters of an acre on Patch Road. Sussin says he and his dad, Troy, started setting up the display in July. To grow the display, Sussin shops during after-Christmas sales, and throughout the year.

“I mean a lot of our pieces we buy and we redo them. I’ll buy stuff in yard sales and everything. It’s like the sled tree, I went and bought every sled separate, and then we were thinking what we could do with them and we turned it into a tree, which everyone loves to see,” Sussin says. “Yeah, other than that, we buy stuff at yard sales that’s falling apart, like this fireplace over here was just an indoor fireplace someone was selling at a yard sale. Took it home, painted it, and we just turned it into a brand new piece for our display.”

Sussin says with LED fixtures, the lights cost about $11 a day to run.

“And this year we have about 300,000 lights, which is up from last year,” says Sussin. “Last year we had 215,000, so we grew a lot this year.”

Sussin hopes to keep the light show going for years and years. And, why do this?

“Just, like I said, Christmas lights make me happy. They make a lot of people happy,” Sussin says. “I’ve never seen someone come here and have a frown on their face. They’re always here smiling. The lights just brighten it up.”

There’s another reason.

“Me and my dad, at first, before the display started, we didn’t really get along. We would argue, whatever, because he’s the hunter. I’m not. I don’t like to hunt. My other brother does; me, not so much. So when we started putting up the lights, it gave us something for me and him to do together and we bonded over the years. And now, every year, we work on it together,” says Sussin. “We may argue every now and then, but, all in all, when it’s all put together, we get along.”

His mother, two sisters and brother stay out of the lights.

“They sit inside while the display is running thinking we’re crazy and all these people walking through their yard, but we love doing this,” says Sussin. “They can’t wait till it’s over but they also know that once it’s over we’re going to be talking about it all year long anyway for the setup next year, so they just deal with it.”

Madeline Korth from Ulster Park sat with Santa and took a stroll through the winding display of more than 100 inflatables.

“I just think it’s amazing. It really is,” Korth says. “They do a beautiful job.”

Kellie Tyler from Hurley visited with her husband and 11-year-old daughter. She, too, calls the display “amazing” and says it makes her feel like a kid.

“It’s just like, it wakes up that old feeling of Christmas spirit, definitely,” says Tyler.

It’s free to walk through the display. There are boxes for donations, though, for the Salvation Army Toy Drive and Christmas Wishes Ulster County. The Sussin Family Christmas Light Show on Patch Road in Saugerties runs through January 1.