Around Suffield: From the Festival of Lights to Santa visits, this holiday season is a joy

If you drove the Suffield Festival of Lights tour the last few years, you experienced the incredible light and sound display at the home of the Winklemans on Woodlark Drive. They won first place for their amazing displays the past three years. They felt bad for other contestants that said why bother to compete with them.

Jim and Gail Winkleman have lived in Suffield for 41 years and for their love for Christmas they have been decorating their property for 25 years. With each year, the decorations keep increasing.

Jim Winkleman is an Air Force Veteran with some health issues that do not hinder his talent for creating and construction of holiday décor. It is a family affair and they start work in October with the first lighting on Thanksgiving.

Jim and son, Bobby, build most of the displays themselves. Needless to say, the work includes the use of intricate and extensive extension cords and electrical works. Sons, Michael and Scott, also help with the installation of the large items. Bobby is the perfectionist. Mom, Gail, worries he might freeze or fall off the roof because he takes so much time to make certain the lights are perfectly spaced and aligned. Their grandchildren also contribute their help to the elaborate light works.

Then as they place the exhibits, they drive to end of road to make sure they are strategically located in place. They are fortunate to be situated at one of the highest points in Portage County and have a fabulous view of their work.

Of course, a mention should be given about their own radio station, 88.3 FM. From visitors’ cars, Christmas music is provided for listening pleasure as it interacts with the lights.

When asked about their electric bill, Gail said she was shocked last year by their highest electric bill of $800, but now have more LED lights so bill could be a little lower.

They experienced a very sad year, due the loss of a grandchild, so didn’t add to their display this year, but have plans to expand next year as a memorial.

Jim explained their Christmas joy is watching the streams of cars enjoying the lights and sitting and listening to the music as they tune in on car radios. They love to watch children get out of cars and hear the “oh and ahs” as they take pictures.

The family wishes to thank everyone for visiting and enjoying their displays. They also want to thank the neighbors for putting up with all the traffic; and special thanks go to the Longs and Noveskes for allowing them to expand the Christmas displays onto their properties.

So everyone can still enjoy their work, they generously donated some HUGE displays to the Suffield community. You can see their 38-foot train and the 45-foot Santa sleigh with reindeer in front of the Suffield Town Hall, and of course, you can still drive by their home on 1701 Woodlark Drive to look and listen. Lights come on at 4:30 till 9:45 PM.

Another highlight of the season is the Suffield League’s “Santa Claus Visit” to the Town Hall. While waiting his arrival, guests enjoyed caroling by the Field High School Choir lead by Director, Mackenzie Downing. The group was festively dressed and provided much spirit to the evening.

Excitement grew as Santa Claus arrived by a Suffield Fire Engine. Children waited in line to sit on Santa’s lap and share their Christmas list with him. Some of the children were excited or little scared and teary with the meeting. Santa always provides a gift for them to take home.

Everyone was invited to enjoy the cookies and beverages provided by the Suffield Township Historical Society.

Area children, from kindergarten to age 6, competed in the coloring contest. It was difficult for the judges from the Suffield Elementary School Office Staff to decide winners from the 80 entries. There were six first prize winners and six second prize winners. They all received gift cards to Katie’s Corners.

Part of the event, and in giving back, many canned goods and monetary donations were collected for the Randolph-Suffield-Atwater Food Shelf.

The Suffield League would like to thank the “Secret Santa” who gave a generous donation to benefit the event. Another thanks to the Suffield Fire Department for bringing Santa to visit.

If you would like to be included in the photo or help “Small Town Doing Big Things” you are welcome to attend a Suffield League meeting on first Sunday of the month at 7 p.m.


If you wish to share events or celebrations, please contact Pauline Persons by calling 330-628-3994 or email [email protected]

Pauline Persons
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