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Couple shares love of Christmas with 55 trees |

Couple shares love of Christmas with 55 trees

Oh the joys of Christmas!

The egg nog. The snow. The holiday lights. The Christmas tree.


How about 55 Christmas trees — in one amazingly festive home?

That might seem a bit extreme for even the most dedicated Christmas lover, but it’s just another year for Jeff and Ann Kulka of rural Beaver Dam.

Ann operates Barber-Ann’s at 211 Corporate Drive and Jeff is an auto mechanic at Jerry’s BP, 700 N. Spring St.

Many great things start young, and Ann recalls the magical Christmases of her youth as her inspiration.

“My mom always decorated our house beautifully for the holidays, and so did my grandparents. I remember going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve and our house on Christmas Day, and there were lights, and big pine trees outside, all decorated …. It’s been a love of mine for as long as I can remember.”

Nephew Brad Kulka keeps the tradition going with a bet that Ann can’t just settle on one tree. He’s won that dollar every year, although the family is doubtless the winner at the annual Kulka family gathering. There they can all revel in the winter wonderland that Ann and Jeff put up and take down each and every year.

Losing a dollar bet is a small price to pay.

The couple is on a constant quest for new trees and decorations, and Jeff can recall where each item was purchased and the circumstances in which each was found.

Its beginnings were humble, as with every great obsession.

We had lived on Charlton Street and it was a really, really tiny house,” said Ann. “I wanted it to look Christmas-y, so we put up the little Alpine (miniature) pine trees. There were 12 of them. The house was only 1,000 square feet, so that’s about as much as we could fit.”

The couple purchased land east of Beaver Dam off Highway E, and decided to build there in 2005. Their dream home was designed to accommodate their special holiday needs.

“I knew how I wanted it to be, so there are outlets everywhere,” said Ann. “We have two services for electrical.”

The process begins early.

“While most people are putting up fall decorations I’m putting up Christmas decorations and hoping nobody stops by the house,” Ann said.

“Halloween got blown right through,” Jeff said. “If she doesn’t start at that time she’ll never get it done.”

Ann does not leave the trees up year ‘round — just through February.

“It’s a lot of work to take them down right away,” she said. “We have one child who leaves the outside lights up all year so she doesn’t have to re-hang them.”

The couple’s other three girls also carry on the tradition, to one degree or another.

“It doesn’t just stop here,” Ann said. “We’ve inflicted this upon them too, apparently.”

As to the number of lights on all those trees, Ann can only guess in the thousands.

She gives an example of the enormity of the task: “The big one in there was on clearance. It was a $700 tree and I got it for $50. It was pre-lit and it took me a day and a half to cut off all the lights. (One little section didn’t work and I didn’t want to add to it).”

She continued, “I used to put a lot more lights on my trees, but it overrides the circuits!”

She tried converting to LED, but finds the light too harsh compared with the warm glow of miniature sets.

Ann creates themes, with one tree in purple and white, the two largest trees covered with family ornaments, a kitchen tree, a mouse tree, a couple snowman trees, a Santa tree, a teal and red tree, an elf tree, two dessert trees, a lime green and pink tree, a Packers tree, a gingerbread tree and more.

The couple also has a large village collection on display.

Even though the house has more than 4,000 square feet, it is dwarfed by the number of holiday guests. (Jeff is one of seven children).

“But the downstairs is just as big as the upstairs so you can spread out and get lost if you want to,” Jeff said.

As for the preparations, they have more than one payoff, according to Ann.

“I just love turning on holiday music and putting it all together,” Ann said. “It’s a mess up here when I’m doing it, but I feel so proud of how it looks when it’s finished.”

Each ornament has a story, and Ann seeks out many of them in far-flung locations.

“I just live for craft fairs,” she said. “We travel all over the place to find things that are not the usual thing.”

When not placed about the house, ornaments, trees and accessories are housed in a 400-square-foot storage room. The space was created when the porch area, usually filled with contractor debris and covered with a cement slab, was excavated.

“At that point I didn’t know what purpose it would serve,” said Jeff. “Now it looks like a warehouse.”

“We’re going to have to add on,” Ann joked. “Yesterday I bought a $159 tree for $30. I don’t have everything out.”

“She rotates the themes,” Jeff said. “The tree is the cheap part. Then she has to buy all the ornaments.”

Jeff is quick to admit, however, that he enjoys it too.

“He is so sad when I start taking it all down,” Ann said. “It’s so pretty when we sit here at night with just the trees on.”

“I wear my sunglasses,” Jeff said with a smile.

Which ties into Ann’s next great idea — a Christmas tree with coal ornaments.

“Just kidding,” Ann said.

kthomas@capitalnewspapers.com

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