When Bruce Mertz — known around the Bay Area as “Mr. Christmas” — died earlier this year, he left behind a heartbroken community.
The jovial man was famous for his elaborate holiday light display, a 36-year tradition that generations of families in his Concord neighborhood enjoyed.
Katy Himsl, who grew up close to the house where Mertz staged his holiday emporium, went to the show every year. She decided to pick up the tradition when he announced that it would be his last show.
“We’re not to his level yet, but we get bigger every year,” said Himsl, who works as a Moraga firefighter. “We wanted to do something that would honor his memory, and the memory of my mom, who loved Christmas.”
The house in question is located on St. Francis Drive. To the average passerby, it might look like any other house decorated for Christmas — until the light show begins.
Himsl and Adam Weber, a local electrician, have synchronized the lights to remixes of popular Christmas music.
The show includes more than 25,000 individual lights and requires 2,500 feet of extension cords and 112 outlets. The electric bill for December surges to $750 and the pair also face additional expenses that go into creating the light displays.
Weber even upgraded the electrical service this year to accommodate more decorations.
“It’s stressful and time-consuming, but seeing the kids come around and ask ‘Hey, when is the light show coming on?’ gives me the motivation to make it better,” he said. “Knowing it brings joy to families, and to Katy’s mom’s memory and Mr. Christmas wraps up the spirit of giving back and being joyful during the holiday.”
Many of the displays are also custom-made, thanks to Weber’s handy work, ensuring that the house is unlike any other in the Bay Area.
“It allows me to create new things, make new things and program new things, so it’s something that’s fun for me,” Weber said. “Turning it into sort of musical art is really cool.”
Although the house has yet to attract the same jaw-dropping number of fans as Mertz’s, word of mouth has spread quickly throughout their Concord neighborhood.
“Last year, a bunch of senior center buses came by and stopped along the neighborhood and watched all the songs,” Himsl said. “That was pretty neat.”
Himsl and Weber are already planning next year’s show and hope to incorporate charitable giving. They’ve done donation drives in the past and raised thousands for animal welfare groups.
“We want to do that again,” Himsl said. “We’ve had a great turnout in the past, so we’re hoping we can continue that and help support a great cause. Just giving back, in general, is what this is supposed to be about.”
Check out the display from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 1168 St. Francis Drive in Concord.