KINBURN – Kinburn’s Karen Runtz doesn’t like winter. So, she brightens it up with lights.
Runtz has lived in Kinburn for 41 years. She moved out of her central Kinburn home about 25 years ago, moving to her current location just outside the village.
For nearly 20 years Runtz has installed an impressive Christmas light display at her home, and up the driveway, located on Logger’s Way just past the Rabbit Path (4028 Logger’s Way Rd.).
It’s a tradition the longtime Kinburn resident started as a way to cheer herself and her neighbours up during the darkest days of the year.
“Oh my gosh, it started when I was doing the long commute to Ottawa for work,” Runtz told West Carleton Online from her front porch last Friday evening (Dec. 20). “In the winter it was dark and I’m one of those that doesn’t really like winter. It really lifted my spirits when I came home around that last bend and the lights would unfold. It lifted the spirits of my neighbours too.”
Her house has the look of a Gingerbread house and is situated at the top of a hill at the end of a driveway that runs through a small wooded area.
Runtz’s display includes “thousands” of lights and some homemade decorations but no inflatables – Runtz is not a fan.
From her front room she can see cars driving up Logger’s Way, slowing down and eventually stopping to have a quick look.
“That happens quite a bit,” Runtz said. “I’ve received great little notes in my mailbox from complete strangers saying how much they appreciate the lights.”
Over the years her display has grown with the changing technology – light-emitting diode, or LEDs, have revolutionized the Christmas light industry.
“Everything is LED now,” Runtz said. “I try to be environmentally friendly and buy the replaceable LED bulbs (instead of an entire string). The Home Hardware store in Arnprior used to have the Parliament Hill contract so they stocked them. Those were great. But the store is phasing them out and they are more expensive.”
But safer. Over the years, Runtz has had her share of lighting challenges. From squirrels chewing wires, to waterlogged lights to snow plowing damage.
“Once, before LEDs, I came home to a melted socket,” she said. “That made me really nervous. Before the days of LEDs, when the power went out in Kinburn, my friends would blame me.”
Runtz leaves about 20 per cent of her lights up year-round, but even those need repair now and again. She says it takes her “weeks” to install the light show each year.
“I always aim for Dec. 1,” she said.
Runtz says she usually leaves the lights up until early or mid-January. Each year Runtz thinks will be her last, but then she’s overcome by the Christmas spirit.
“It’s definitely more a struggle now,” Runtz said. “I do grumble a lot. When I do it I say, ‘this will be the last year.’”
But she hasn’t been able to hold herself to that yet.
“I call it painting with lights,” Runtz said. “There’s no pattern, it just happens. I just really love that it adds something to other people’s nights as well.”
Runtz says she turns her lights on each evening once it gets dark and leaves them on until around midnight.
For several years, Runtz’s Christmas lights have been featured in Ottawa Starts’ Ottawa’s best Christmas Lights Display post (from 2018).
There are two other West Carleton locations on Ottawa Starts’ list. Ottawa Start recommends a light display on Upper Dwyer Hill Road north of Hwy. 7, close to the Hamilton Road intersection as well as three or four houses on the north end of Oak Creek Road.