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May your nights be tacky and bright

May your nights be tacky and bright

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Marc Leslie and Liz Kolonay have the tackiest house on their block. In fact, they have the tackiest house in Oregon Hill.

“It’s just a mismatch of lights and blow molds, and nothing is symmetrical,” Kolonay says. “Our only rule is: nothing parallel. It’s gaudy, … but it’s mesmerizing.”

Every inch of their tiny Oregon Hill yard is stuffed with items, such as a Santa, baby Jesus or the world’s ugliest little angel (at least, that’s how Kolonay describes it). It’s the kind of house that you need to stand in front of and stare at for a while.

“There’s a lot of detail,” Leslie says. “We pride ourselves on detail.”

He doesn’t have an exact count of their lights, but says one friend summed it up best by saying “it looked like Kmart threw up on our house.”

They favor eclectic, vintage finds, such as Santa blow molds from the 1940s, old-school Nativity scenes and anything left on their porch by neighbors and friends. The couple gravitates toward items with a sense of humor, such as a giant blowup Nativity scene a local day care donated because “it scared the children.”

Limos have started inching down the narrow street on Tacky Lights tours, and neighbors come out in droves to see the lights.

“Every year, we reach a point where we think, ‘What are we doing? This is crazy,’ ” Leslie says. “But then a kid will stop by and go, ‘Ooh, it’s Christmas.’ And it’s the coolest thing. It makes people happy. And it’s neat to be a part of that.”

Along with the help of friends and family, the couple spend roughly 100 hours every year decking out their home for Tacky Lights. They call their house the “Oregon Hill Christmas House” and maintain a Facebook page detailing their progress and brightly finished product.

Their home at 408 S. Laurel St. is a typical 1910 row house complete with old-fashioned wiring and outlets, making it a challenge to decorate every year. They used to run cords through the kitchen and upstairs windows. But a few years ago, an electrician wired the house for holiday lights. Now they have eight outdoor outlets and six circuits dedicated to Christmas lights.

They also rent a U-Haul to store their vast Christmas haul at her sister’s West End home .

‘We don’t have a big yard or house,” Leslie says. “We just cram it all in.”

Although they’ve been lighting up for years, they just started getting reliable traffic last year when they were added to’s Tacky Lights list.

“It was so fun,” Leslie says. “We got to meet people from all over. All these kids come out to see it.”

Nominate a house

Got a house to add to the list? The minimum is 40,000 lights. Please send the address, a photo, contact info and a brief description to Colleen Curran at and we'll be in touch!

They have a mailbox out front where kids leave letters to Santa. And Santa returns them in envelopes postmarked from the North Pole.

Kolonay says their electric bills haven’t skyrocketed. They try to be respectful of their neighbors and run their lights only from 5 to 9:30 p.m. daily, except for Christmas Eve and New Year’s, when they stay lit until midnight.

“It costs about the same as when we run the air conditioning in August,” Kolonay says.

Leslie and Kolonay acknowledge they might be reaching decoration capacity for their house, but hope to change it up every year with donations from neighbors or vintage finds from eBay.

“We have three sets of Wise Men,” Kolonay says. “But I wouldn’t turn down a fourth.”

The best part, she says, is when her husband gets home from work before she does and lights up the house. She says, “I come down Pine, take a left on Albemarle and it’s glowing. It’s glorious.”

(804) 649-6151


Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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