Bill Incatasciato fell in love with Christmas lights growing up near Fort Lauderdale, FL. With his brother and friends, he walked through neighborhoods full of illuminated palm trees and houses, plastic figures of angels, Santa Claus and manger scenes.
“It was like a visual circus. It was stimulating to the mind because you’re watching all these cool lights. As a kid, it’s mesmerizing,” he said.
Now a Northern Virginia pediatrician and Leesburg resident, Incatasciato is still crazy about Christmas lights and has become a resource for fellow displayers and fans. He launched the Loudoun Christmas Lights Facebook page in 2017, and it’s snowballed in the past two years.
“I was taken by surprise by the number of people who just like me have the enthusiasm for this,” Incatasciato said. “My goal was to be able to provide a platform, a place where you can go find lights.”
When Incatasciato, his wife, Kristie, and daughter, Marissa, lived in Alexandria, they became devotees of the regionally famous website Holly’s Tacky Christmas Lights—fairfaxchristmaslights.com. But while that page’s creator, Holly Zell, does venture into Sterling, she usually doesn’t go farther west. And when Incatasciato and family moved to Leesburg, he couldn’t find a similar resource for Loudoun. He decided to start one, and Loudoun Christmas Lights was born. Incatasciato started out slowly on social media but recently bought the loudounchristmaslights.com domain and plans to launch a full-blown website this season or next year.
For Incatasciato, displays fall into three general categories: Griswolds (named for the iconic Clark Griswold of “Christmas Vacation” fame—they’re over the top tacky in the best possible way), elegant (more traditional displays often featuring white lights) and techie/synchronized (they often have fewer lights than a Griswold, but have a more sophisticated setup involving computers, channel sequencers and synchronization with music).
“It’s like going to Disney,” Incatasciato said of the techie displays “They’re awesome but it takes a little more technical expertise and it’s a bit more expensive. … Most of those folks have to start off in September getting ready.”
Incatasciato says his own home in Leesburg’s Northlake neighborhood falls squarely in the Griswold category with its reindeer carousel, Santa on the verandah and this year’s new addition: a flying hippo. The extravaganza takes six full days and plenty of creativity to execute. Incatasciato was inspired by a neighbor, who has since moved out of state, whose home was known in the neighborhood as the Gingerbread House.
“When we moved to Leesburg, I was probably your average light displayer, but my next-door neighbor was one of the big displays. … I started adding a few lights here and there. It starts to sort of grow.”
Light displays often become “a thing” in certain communities, as neighbors inspire each other and engage in a little friendly competition, and that leads to what Incatasciato calls “clumps,” where instead of a single over-the-top house, a whole street becomes the draw.
“I’m always trying to discover those houses and those neighborhoods where maybe you don’t have a Griswold display, but you have a fairly decent set of lights and everybody on the whole block has it, too,” he said.
Incatasciato noted that Juniper Avenue in Sterling had a reputation as a hotspot in years past, but the street has become less illuminated as residents got older and the neighborhood evolved. But there are always new zones cropping up.
“It’s really awesome and it brings out the creativity in people,” Incatasciato said. “Instead of just putting a few lights on a bush, they’re like, ‘what if I do it this way and they get more creative,’ and that’s what life is all about. Let’s have as much fun with it as possible.”
Incatasciato finished his own display last week and is now turning his focus to discovering new local displays with his family. He still considers himself a newbie to the light display scene and is always looking to find new neighborhoods. The idea behind the Facebook page is both to help fellow fans find good gawking and also help hardworking display creators get the word out.
“I want people who put up the lights to connect with people who want to see the lights because they put a lot of effort into putting those lights up,” he said. “I’d like them to know that there are people who appreciate it and can come and find them.”
Incatasciato said he and his family enjoy professional displays like the ones at Meadowlark Gardens and Bull Run Regional Park, but there’s something about the personal touch of neighborhood decorations that’s just magic.
“Not one house really looks like the other,” he said. “When you drive through neighborhoods, the houses often look pretty much the same. They all have the same peaks and dormers, but once the Christmas lights go on, they take on their own personality. Each person has a different way of looking at things and you can really see the individuality and creativity that you may not see during the day.”
To check out Bill Incatasciato’s Griswold display and other favorite Christmas lights in Loudoun, or to add your own favorites, go to facebook.com/LoudounChristmasLights.