A holly jolly house - Albuquerque Journal

A holly jolly house

The Ifversen house on Monroe Road includes a pathway through thousands of festive lights, holiday animatronics and an extensive diorama of the city of Albuquerque. On most nights, Santa also greets visitors. (Roberto E Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

She didn’t want to do it.

For most of the years since 1970, when her family moved into the home on Monroe Street, the Ifversens went all out with holiday lights, putting Roy Ifversen’s skills as an electrician and Carol Ifversen’s savvy as a Christmas crafter to good use.

“We love Christmas,” said Carol, who, for years, dressed up as Jingles the Elf to greet the crowds who flocked to their light display each December. “It was such a fun thing to do.”

Each year, the display grew, thousands of lights and animatronics, dozens of Santas, and snowmen and reindeer. Some time after Roy’s death in 1998, son Leo Frechette began donning a Santa costume each night, entreating children to pluck a candy cane from a tree and share their wish lists for what they wanted for Christmas.

It was a holly jolly time.

You have to admire folks like them who go all out, electric bills be damned, to make spirits bright with their bright lights and big holiday displays.

Albuquerque is graced with many of them, as evidenced by the Albuquerque Area Holiday Lights Tour, a Facebook page featuring a map of the best holiday home displays created last year by Jared Trujillo, another local holiday hobbyist whose love of lights comes to life every Christmas.

The Ifversen home on Monroe north of Lomas NE is among those on the map, though Carol Ifversen didn’t know that until I mentioned it.

“I guess that means someone really likes what we do,” she said.

But what the map doesn’t convey, what sets the Ifversen display out from the rest of the lights fantastic in Albuquerque, is Albuquerque – in miniature.

There it is, from the Sandia Peak Ski Area to the Old Town gazebo, a diorama of our town crafted from whatever materials Ifversen could reimagine – a block of styrofoam for the old 17-story First National Bank building, a toy wooden barn for the Frontier Restaurant.

“I buy something and make it what I want it to be,” she said. “Presbyterian Hospital is part of a plastic building from a train set. I just wrote Presbyterian on it and there you go.”

Ifversen started crafting her city years ago on top of a ping pong table in a garage-turned-game room. Eventually, the city outgrew the pingpong table to fill the room.

“It just kept growing and growing and growing,” Ifversen said, as if the building boom was something independent of her own whims.

Hot air balloons, some made by students at the nearby Zia Elementary School, hung in the blue-draped sky above the landscape. A large window installed in the front of the room allowed visitors to get a good view of it all.

Then, one day, it all disappeared.

“We just didn’t want to do it any more,” Ifversen said. “It’s a lot of work and we’re getting older.”

Christmas went dark on that part of Monroe Street. But people didn’t forget Ifversen and her son.

One day, Ifversen said she and her son were perusing items at an estate sale at a home on their street when a little boy with his parents came running up to them.

“I know who you are!” she recalls the little boy exclaiming. “You’re Jingles the Elf and he’s Santa Claus!”

Minutes later, another child gleefully recognized them. And then another.

CaroI Ifversen started crafting her cityscape of Albuquerque years ago, using a variety of items, such as Styrofoam and model train accessories. Someday, she hopes to donate the collection to an Albuquerque entity. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

And, well, they knew what they had to do.

“So, we discussed it and decided to bring back Christmas and Albuquerque,” Ifversen said. “But, if we did, the decision was that, once we put up the city display, it would never come down until we take it down for good.”

They also decided they would put up the Christmas lights and all the trimmings for four more years.

That was five or six years ago.

This year, they’ve added ornaments to the candy cane tree so that children who visit can not only grab a sweet treat, but also a little bauble as a gift from the house on Monroe Street.

Leo plans to play Santa every night until Christmas Eve. But Ifversen said she doesn’t plan to reprise her role as Jingles the Elf. She’s 79 and her bad back makes it hard to get into her elf costume.

“I’m just Jingles the Woman of the House now,” she said.

Every night, after the sun sets, she flips on a light switch and the display comes to life. The two of them love to chat with the passersby, especially the children and those who marvel at the city she has built.

It’s unknown how long they plan to keep bringing back their display – or whether this year will be the last.

“We haven’t said that,” Ifversen said. “Yet.”

Some day, she said, she’d like to donate her cityscape to a local entity – a museum, perhaps. A business. City Hall. But it has to be somewhere in Albuquerque, she said. Which makes sense.

And, yes, Ifversen has taken a bit of artistic license in creating her Albuquerque, parts of the city looking more like a Victorian village, Central Avenue more like a winding road up a snowy hillside.

And how do we explain the Leaning Tower of Pisa not far from the Monte Vista Fire Station restaurant and bar.

And then there are the angels, one as big as a church, that hover over this little city. That added touch, though, seems just about perfect.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, jkrueger@abqjournal.com.


Home » ABQnews Seeker » A holly jolly house

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

Game Commission officially repeals stream access rule
ABQnews Seeker
The New Mexico State Game Commission ... The New Mexico State Game Commission on Friday officially overturned a controversial rule that had allowed for private landowners to close off nonnavigable waterways ...
Resale shop goes from hobby to main gig for ...
ABQnews Seeker
Meet Jasmine Baillio, owner of What ... Meet Jasmine Baillio, owner of What Goes Around
APD investigating homicide in South Valley
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police are investigating a homicide ... Albuquerque police are investigating a homicide Friday afternoon in the south Valley. Rebecca Atkins, an Albuquerque police spokeswoman, said the incident happened in the ...
Roosevelt County woman, 82, fatally hit by neighbor's pickup
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico State Police say an ... New Mexico State Police say an elderly woman in Roosevelt County has died after she was hit by a vehicle driven by an elderly ...
BCSO searching bosque for suspect in stabbing, fire south ...
ABQnews Seeker
Deputies are asking the public's help ... Deputies are asking the public's help in finding a man who allegedly stabbed a person before lighting a fire Friday morning in the bosque ...
Portales woman fatally struck by elderly driver while getting ...
ABQnews Seeker
Authorities said an 88-year-old struck his ... Authorities said an 88-year-old struck his neighbor with his flatbed trailer, killing her, as she got her mail Thursday afternoon near Portales. New Mexico ...
Man's body found floating in Abiquiu Lake, deputies say
ABQnews Seeker
Authorities say a fisherman found a ... Authorities say a fisherman found a man's body on the west side of Abiquiu Lake on Thursday morning. Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Maj. Lorenzo ...
Fast work helps save cat with a leaky gut
ABQnews Seeker
Despite severe contamination, doc's fast work ... Despite severe contamination, doc's fast work helped support her immune system
Apple warns of security flaw for iPhones, iPads and ...
ABQnews Seeker
Apple disclosed serious security vulnerabilities for ... Apple disclosed serious security vulnerabilities for iPhones, iPads and Macs that could potentially allow attackers to take complete control of these devices. Apple released ...