Weaver Winter Wonderland Lights Up Northern CA- #LightFight #ABCTVEvent #StarWarsEvent
With Season 2 in full swing, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas with ABC’s hit holiday decorating competition series The Great Christmas Light Fight. A few weeks ago we helped to usher in the kick off to the new season with none other than “The Great Christmas Light Fight” host & judge Carter Oosterhouse and his wife, actress Amy Smart where we joined with them for some fun and frolic. This show is especially near and dear to my heart as last season, one of my neighbor’s houses, Weaver Wonderland aka The Disney House, took home the grand prize during Season 1.
Northern California is known for many things- The Golden Gate Bridge, Sourdough French Bread, as the gateway to Wine Country, Luther Burbank, and Charles Schultz and the gang from Peanuts. But at Christmas time, Northern California, specifically Rohnert Park up in Sonoma Country, in known for one thing and one thing only- the Weaver Winter Wonderland. Haven’t heard of the Weaver Winter Wonderland, otherwise known in our neighborhood as the Disney Christmas House? Last year our hometown holiday favorites, Weaver’s Winter Wonderland was featured on and won ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” The show showcases families from all over the United States competing to have the greatest light display. Competitors were chosen through a nationwide search, based on creative and over the top designs. The most spectacular part of it all is, Weaver does it all for the children, and to see the happiness on their faces.
Weaver developed a passion for Christmas and decorating that goes back to the early 90s. Each year his light display grew bigger and bigger. When his passion finally outgrew the Weaver house years ago, it started migrating to the homes of neighbors. On a nearby lawn, the “Island of Misfit Toys” are displayed. The Abominable Snowman towers higher than one neighbor’s home. Jessica Rabbit poses on another next-door lawn. Weaver looks forward to creating his work of art all year, like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. However, things don’t really get serious until the fall. “I usually start in the first week of October with planning what to do for new neighbors or maybe adding a new display for someone,” Weaver said. “Over the years we’ve added new cutout displays — like Mr. Magoo, Spongebob, and the Smurfs.”
“One of my neighbors really wanted to add the Smurfs because her kids and grandkids really liked the Smurfs so I made them for her.” This year, in keeping with the “Frozen” phenomenon sweeping the nation, visitors will find a giant Queen Elsa and Anna as one of the featured centerpieces. Also incorporated into this holiday spectacular are trees from his mother that she worked on as she was going through chemo, his beloved dog complete with her actual dog collar and ashes mixed into the paint used on her life sized cutout as well as a complete Lion King display as a tribute to his father who helped guide Scott back on his journey of life. Always a man of giving back to the town that has been so good to him, Scott puts out a donation box with the proceeds helping to keep many of the high school programs that have gone by the way of state budget cuts.
For almost 20 years now, the Weavers have transformed their Rohnert Park home into a castle with over 300 handcrafted characters, 40,000 lights, a waterfall, a tower, a train and a bubble machine. His self-described “Weaver Winter Wonderland” gets bigger every year. The display, a labor of love, takes Scott over a month of 12-hour days to set up. Each year Weaver is only given five weeks of vacation from his job as a grocery worker at Lucky’s in Larkspur. He sets aside four of those weeks for preparation.
“During those weeks leading up to December I am working seven days a week — anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day.” Currently Scott has about 20 of his neighbors involved in the displays as well as students from the local high school who receive community service hours for working on the project. “It’s great to work with the kids and get to know the people in the community,” Weaver said. “Plus, they get a lot out of it learning how to set-up displays and use tools.”
Last year however, the Winter Wonderland set up started a little bit earlier than usual when the ABC crew rolled into town to film. On Sept. 17, a camera team arrived at the Cielo Circle home Weaver shares with his wife, Rochelle, and son, Tyler, to capture some “before” footage. Then, Weaver arranged three weeks of vacation from his job at the Lucky supermarket in Larkspur, and he and a small corps of helpers set to work building the Christmas display.
It typically takes a full month of eight-hour days to pull the many handmade plywood figures and other props from the attic, assemble and secure them in place, get the mechanical features such as the carousels and a waterfall working, set the lights and fill the bubble-maker, and make the legions of final adjustments. This year — national TV contest year — Weaver and his crew finished in 27 days.
“It’s the quickest I’ve ever set up, and it’s the most detailed I’ve ever done it,” he said. He was pretty much ready when a film crew from Burbank-based FremantleMedia North America arrived for two nights of shooting. Previously forbidden by his contract with ABC from talking about the show, Weaver was allowed to invite relatives, friends and neighbors to come scream and cheer and ooh-and-ahh as part of the audience. Weaver, decked out in a Santa-red shirt and tie, flipped the switch and his house-turned-castle lit up like a Las Vegas casino in a fireworks finale within a nuclear blast.
Bathed in the light were 80-plus nutcrackers, too many candy canes and snowmen and sleighs to count and the incredibly authentic-looking figures of Dumbo, Ariel, Snow White, Tinker Bell, Simba, Aladdin, Peter Pan and the newest addition to Weaver’s cast, Elsa and Anna of “Frozen.” A copter-like drone bearing a wide-angle camera soared above the yard, then crept just feet off the ground. Wowed, Weaver said, “The footage I saw made my house look more spectacular than ever.” A camera on a long boom rolled as the crowd projected its delight. The well-directed extras — “Don’t look into the cameras!” — also pulled out the stops for the arrival by limousine of last year’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” judge Sabrina Soto. The Cuban-American interior designer and HGTV host had Weaver feeling all the more grateful he had agreed to compete on the show. “She was not only gorgeous, she was so down to earth,” Weaver said. He said Soto asked him pointedly, “What are you doing in the grocery business?” and insisted he should be designing sets. The shooting continued until 1:30 a.m. Thursday, then resumed that evening. Weaver said that Soto returned later long enough to reveal the magical news that his house was indeed the grand prize winner-but for those of us that have marveled in the delight of the Weaver Wonderland for years now, we already knew that he had won in the hearts of all that know Scott and the entire family.
Winning or not, last year Weaver said that having a role in the TV production has been an absolute blast. Each year when December 1 rolls around, the lights are flipped on in for all to immerse themselves in and enjoy, including the Turner family who have been enjoying this tradition since it first started all those many years ago.
Now it’s not just my children that giggle in delight each year as we pull into the court to start our holiday, but it’s the grandkids squealing with delight, taking their own pictures and creating their own lifetime of memories. I asked Scott what drives him and his family what drives them to take on this enormous labor of love each year.” It’s powerful and magical to watch a kid behold his Christmas castle and to see the awe and wonder light up his or her eyes.” As one grateful mom and grandma, thank you Scott Weaver and family. You have certainly brought the magic of Christmas to our family and thousands of others. There’s other stories and houses across the country that come alive at Christmas time. Don’t miss “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” Mondays at 8:00 on ABC.