Johnson Lane woman puts more than 100,000 lights on her house |

Johnson Lane woman puts more than 100,000 lights on her house

by Linda Hiller

As you look at the Christmas lights around Marva Duckworth’s Johnson Lane home, the display is not only beautifully blinding, but mind-boggling when you realize that it is essentially a one-woman show.

The property is so bright it can be seen by commercial airlines at 30,000 feet, according to Duckworths’ son-in-law, who is a pilot for American Airlines.

“He told us that he can point out the lights when he flies over,” she said.

This year, strings of red, white, and green lights totaling more than 100,000 have been carefully placed on the Raeline Lane property in a process that began nearly three months ago.

“Whatever I do, I do full bore,” Duckworth explained. “I always have. People ask me where I get all my energy and I tell them, ‘I guess I get energy from my projects.'”

Duckworth’s “project” this year is a gift to everyone who makes their way by her visual extravaganza at night. The lights are mesmerizing, and the only thing more fascinating than the display is the way it came to be.

– And she’s off. The Duckworths retired from the Bay Area in 1991 and bought a house on six acres in Johnson Lane. Within a very short time, she had begun to spread her light-decorating wings – a city girl inspired by her newly-acquired space.

Two years ago, Duckworth said, she was up to 30,000 lights, and the cost for the electricity alone was $1,000 per month. This year, Duckworth has more than tripled the number of red, white and green lights to 100,000 plus, and its anyone’s guess what the power bill will be come January.

“I try not to think about it,” husband Bill Duckworth said. “It’s her hobby, though, and it makes her happy.”

The Duckworths have been married for 19 years, have three children between them and two grandchildren.

– Labor of love. In order to safely operate this year’s display, the Duckworths hired an electrician to add more plugs to the property and eliminate the need for extension cords. That, too, came at a monetary cost.

But forget about the money, what about all the time it takes to get that many lights on every tree, every fence, every cut-out decoration on the property?

“I started on Oct. 1 this year, and worked almost every day on it,” she said. “My son and his girlfriend came up during Thanksgiving and helped me. Sometimes I’ve worked up until Christmas Eve putting on lights.”

Duckworth, 48, said viewers looking at the display will notice that her application of lights isn’t just random.

“I go out and look at it and then I’ll see a hole, or see that I need more of a certain color of lights in a certain spot and I’ll add that in,” she said.

Duckworth shops the after-Christmas sales for lights and was enamored with the new icicle lights which recently came onto the market.

“I have 15,000 icicle lights in the display, and after Christmas one year I bought $1,500 worth of lights for half price,” she said. “We don’t exchange presents – except for the grandchildren – so this is our gift. If everybody enjoys it, that is all the pleasure I need – that’s what the holidays are about.”

– Decorated school bus, too. If decorating the house and property isn’t enough, Duckworth also decorates the school bus she drives for the Douglas County School District.

As could be expected, she was one of the first bus drivers to really decorate her bus. Her son, David Jett, dubbed the bus the “Douglas Fur.”

“Before, there were no rules and regulations in writing about decorating the busses, but after I started to decorate mine, the district came out with a full page letter on the do’s and don’t’s of it,” she laughed. “The main thing is to make it safe for the kids. I love my kids and they love me.”

– Where to go see it. The Duckworth Christmas light display is located at 1370 Raeline Lane in Johnson Lane. To get there, travel east on Johnson Lane to Vicky Lane, turn left and then right on Raeline Lane. The house is the last one on the left (really, you can’t miss it).

Tonight at the house there will be Santa and his elves passing out candy canes and the Duckworths will also be accepting donations of non-perishable food to be donated to the Carson Valley Community Food Closet.

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