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.


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