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Kennedy Avenue and 23rd Street in Bismarck

One of the brightest Chirstmas displays in the Bismarck and Mandan area is on the corner of Kennedy Avenue and 23rd Street in Bismarck.

In October, when many people are still wondering what they’re going to dress up as for Halloween, the Chmielewski family is going to work. Their goal: To make a bigger, better Christmas display than the year before.

“It takes about six weeks,” said Al Chmielewski, patriarch of the Chmielewski clan.

It’s a group effort to put together the display that dominates the block on Kennedy Avenue and has drawn thousands of visitors over the past decade. It even has been the centerpiece of a music video.

Al Chmielewski; his wife Kathy Chmielewski; their children AJ, Jacob, Joshua and Alysha Chmielewski; and family friend Reed Wagner all work to put on the display, which includes such holiday delights as a replica of the Abomidable Snowman, a carousel and a Ferris wheel.

The Ferris wheel is a favorite of the family, “mainly that’s because it’s given us the least trouble over the years,” AJ Chmielewski joked.

You won’t find many of the items on display at “Chmielewski’s Christmas Corner” in a store, because a majority of the display items are hand-made.

“Kathy (Chmielewski) usually comes up with what she would like and then we try to manufacture it,” Al Chmielewski said.

He said the project started because he and his children enjoyed putting up displays.

“It just kept growing every year,” he said. “The kids really liked a lot of lights, and it seemed like every year we had to add more lights.”

Of course, all that light isn’t free, and though the Chmielewski’s use LED lighting where they can to save costs, they conceded that the electric bill goes up a bit over the holidays.

Cost isn’t the only challenge the Chmielewskis face in spreading Christmas cheer.

“Basically every year we’ve had something stolen, since the display’s been up and running,” AJ Chmielewski said.

This year, it was a lighted candycane. One year, somebody stole the Abominable Snowman. It’s usually pranksters, he said.

“We’ve learned from the past, now everything gets tied down or staked down,” AJ Chmielewski said. The yard also is monitored by camera.

The family said that what keeps them going is the looks of joy on the faces of visitors and passersby. The family keeps a guestbook for visitors, with many signatures coming from out of state and even out of country.

“I think a lot of people are just amazed, the way things are set up,” Al Chmielewski said.

The Christmas season inevitably must come to an end.

AJ Chmielewski said the lights usually come down shortly after the new year.

Just as many ponder how Santa Claus fits all of those toys inside his sleigh, the Chmielewskis say many ask them just where they store those decorations when they aren’t on display.

“It’s one of our most frequently asked questions,” AJ Chmielewski said. “What we normally tell everyone is we’ve got a shoebox and it all goes under the bed.”

Reach reporter Andrew Sheeler at 701-250-8225 or andrew.sheeler@bismarcktribune.com.

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