Couple knows how to brighten season

December 24, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

Editor's note: This is the final in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others.

LEITERSBURG - Every Christmas, hundreds of people come to see the colorful lights that illuminate Butch and Betty Buhrman's 3-acre Clopper Road property.

They come to marvel at the lighted two-story-high evergreen trees. They stop to visit the stable of sheep in the Buhrmans' front yard.


But if there's one thing the Buhrmans want their guests to take with them, it's the message on a simple black and white sign hanging above the stable, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."

"I'll tell you the real reason for the lights. To remind people what the real meaning of Christmas is," Butch Buhrman said.

One recent visitor told Buhrman he should put out a donation box to cover the cost of the 31,000-light display.

"He said, 'No that would go against my sign,'" Betty Burhman said.

It all started when their son Dwayne, then a teenager, decided to string a few lights on his parents' front porch for the holidays.

Dwayne is 34 now and lives with his family in Waynesboro, Pa. But he comes back every year to help set up the display, a task that begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and takes several days.

Their oldest son Rodney, 36, and nephew Jeff Feaser are also on the work crew.

Betty Burhman spends her days in the kitchen cooking for the crew and baby-sitting her grandchildren while the work gets done.

"It's one big family affair," said Butch Burhman, who is retired from the machining department at Mack Trucks in Hagerstown.

Butch Buhrman flips five circuit breakers in his garage to turn on most of the lights. The rest are on three extension cords that he plugs into outdoor outlets.

The Burhman's buy strings of lights when they go on sale. They don't usually miss the bargains since their daughter, Yvonne Newell, 30, works at Wal-Mart.

Every year they make small changes or additions.

Last year they added a string of doves over their driveway.

They have finally reworked their Peace on Earth display so it's easier to read. The secret: rope lights.

People often ask them how much the display adds to their electric bill. They figure it's about $125 a month.

It's worth all the time and effort when they hear the feedback from the people who stop to look, they said.

Colleen Burkhammer, 45, drives by the display every night on her way home to Waynesboro, Pa., from her job in Hagerstown. On Friday, she stopped to get a closer look at the sheep.

"This is absolutely fantastic. It's just fantastic they do this," Burkhammer said.

Tim Palmer, 31, took his two sons to see the three lambs that are only weeks old.

"They definitely capture the holiday spirit," Palmer said.

Ruts have developed along the road where people have pulled over to get a glimpse. The Burhmans said they welcome visitors to park in their driveway.

"If we can bring happiness and joy through the Christmas season that's what we want to do," Butch Buhrman said.

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