In the spirit of Christmas

Cases light up farm in candy cane colors

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JANESVILLE, Wis. — When it comes to Christmas decorating, the Case family likes to leave no area unlit. Alternating trios of red and white lights line the roof of their house, garage, barn, machine shed and milking parlor. All the buildings match, with their lights casting a soft glow in the December night sky.

“In the dark, it looks like a candy cane,” Steve Case said.

Steve and his wife, Liz, farm with their son, Craig, and their grandson, Tyler, at Pineview Dairy near Janesville. The Cases milk 200 cows and farm 300 acres. Spreading Christmas joy is important to the family that does not let farm work prevent them from decorating for the holidays.

“Even though I’m a busy farmer, I still find time to do fun things,” Steve said. “I’ve learned the thing children enjoy most when they come home for the holidays is seeing everything look like it did when they were growing up, when they were kids. They like things the way they used to be. It means the world to them to see the decorations and presents underneath the tree.”

The Cases’ house is filled with Christmas. Two large trees adorn the inside of their home while the festive sunroom is also decorated with a full-size Christmas tree and several smaller trees complemented by snowman decor. Three trees illuminate the front porch along with a snowman, deer and sleigh. What started in the house has spilled outside.

Craig and his wife, Brittney, got married on the farm last year, which prompted the purchase of a 30-foot lift that was used to update the machine shed where the wedding reception was held. The piece of equipment has provided the ability for Steve and his son to get more lavish in their light displays.

“That lift was the best money I ever spent,” Steve said. “It’s 35 feet to the top of the barn, and now, we can put up lights on the shed and barn.”

Steve said the LED bulbs they use are expensive but last a long time. 

“I got the idea to alternate three whites and three reds from Craig who has his house decorated that same way,” Steve said. “We used 600 bulbs, and it took us about five hours.” 

 Wreaths adorn multiple buildings including one on the front of the parlor, which was purchased from the Boy Scouts. Case planned to also string green lights around the fans on the end of the barn.

“My wife loves Christmas decorations,” Steve said. “But we’re both 68 years old, and it’s getting harder to do this every year.”

Across the road lives Steve’s other son, Jeremy, and his wife, Tracy. Their woods shine bright with lights that line a trail Steve made for his daughter-in-law last year.

“For 20 years, my daughter-in-law waited for this trail in the woods,” Steve said. “One day, I took a skid loader up there and spent five hours creating a trail. It didn’t take long to do. When I was done, I saw a person walking down the trail I just made. They were wiping their eyes. It was Tracy, and she was in tears. ‘I waited all my married life for this,’ she said. ‘I can’t believe you did it.’”

Steve is filled with year-round Christmas spirit, as his daughter-in-law can attest.

“This man will do anything for you,” Tracy said. “He has a kind heart. Without even asking, he’s out there doing this for me because he heard me talking about it. The way he picks up on things, it’s like he reads my mind.”

Steve worked with nature, carving a path through the trees before Thanksgiving. The ground was like clay, so he filled it with gravel one bucket at a time. When all was said and done, 180 buckets of gravel made for a walkable trail. He also trimmed tree limbs to provide plenty of space for strolling.

Walkers of the trail are immersed in lights, transported to a peaceful, Christmas world of quiet reflection. The 1,000-foot trail is lit up with 1,300 white lights strung on 100 posts placed about every 12 feet.

“We bought every string of lights from the hardware store that I could find,” Steve said.

Steve situated seven 12-gauge drop cords every 100 feet to allow Tracy to place various decorations along the trail, such as LED snowmen, lanterns and a Nativity display. The Nativity is set on a straw bale in an opening in the woods with a spotlight shining on it. Tracy would like to add speakers by the Nativity to play the part from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Linus ex-plains the true meaning of Christmas. She also wants to get a real reindeer and have someone dressed up as Santa Claus come walking down the path with the deer after listening to the story.  

“I have lots of ideas for the trail, but we’re taking it one year at a time,” Tracy said. “We have grandchildren now, and I’m excited to take them out there too. When it snows, I want to put them on sleds and pull them through it.”

Before Steve blazed a trail, Tracy said it was just a patch of woods that she could not walk through. She walks the path every morning in the summer now and has invited neighbors and friends to savor it as well.

“I enjoy watching people be happy with what I did,” Steve said. “If you can put a smile on someone’s face for a little bit of labor, it’s worth it. We just kind of do those things. Now at night, I look at Tracy’s lights, and she looks at our lights.”

The trail has proved to be a gift Tracy can appreciate all year long. At Christmas, it takes on an even deeper meaning for a family that looks forward to this time of year. Making the farm glow bright with Christmas spirit is important to Steve, a busy farmer who always puts his family first.  

“I feel so blessed,” Steve said. “Next year, my wife and I will be married 50 years. We have six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. One of the great-grandchildren was just born on my birthday. We’re all one big happy family, and I hope it stays that way forever.”

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