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A winter wonderland since 1949: Ravenna's Candy Cane Lane is still going strong

A larger than life-size nutcracker stands in front of a holly bush that has a cut out wooden train that circles around it. There are also three lollipops staked into the ground and beside those are three giftboxes stacked in a pyramid. This is all in the center of the neighborhood.
Grace Madigan
At the center of Candy Cane Lane is a display of decorations made by residents. Their crowning achievement is a carousel that spins around a holly bush in the center of the neighborhood.

Every year since 1949, residents of Northeast Park Road in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood turn their street into “Candy Cane Lane.” The 23 homes adorn their front yards with Christmas decorations like lights, signs that say ‘peace’ in different languages, and even a giant blow-up Grinch.

Vincent Miller has lived on Candy Cane Lane for more than 30 years. He stresses the amount of work that everyone puts into this holiday tradition. One neighbor redid the electrical wiring for the display while another thought of organizing a food drive. For a time of year that brings darkness early, the lights are welcomed by everyone.

"Last year was huge because of the pandemic," Miller said. "This was something people could go and see and most of them walk through. And I felt pretty good. Everybody felt good about that."

It all started with a friendly neighborhood Christmas lights competition organized by the Seattle Times.

Miller is a fourth-generation Seattleite and knew about Candy Cane Lane, but never thought he'd live there. That was until his wife, who is from Florida, experienced the Christmas wonderland, and they jumped at the chance when one of the houses went up for sale. Miller says they were in a "four-way dogfight to buy the house." The houses on Northeast Park Road lend themselves to the whimsical nature of Candy Cane Lane.

"The street's kind of unusual because the UW School of Architecture designed it back in the '20s," Miller explained. "Mr. Gould decided he wanted it to look like an English country lane. That's why we got the big circle. If you look around, that’s why there’s a lot of English-style architecture around here."

There's no manual for new homeowners in the neighborhood. Miller says everyone pitches in where they can. His wife, for instance, she's scheming as early as August. The actual set up of the different decorations doesn't happen until the weekend after Thanksgiving.

From a carousel that spins around a holly bush in the middle of the street to a larger than life nutcracker, Candy Cane Lane is the result of decades tinkering and tweaking. Many of the structures date back to the early days when several Boeing engineers who lived there took it upon themselves to help with the display.

Miller recognizes that folks like himself are getting to an age where scaling tall ladders and putting in a weekend of labor is tougher than it used to be, physically speaking. But he doesn't see that stopping Candy Cane Lane any time soon.

"Our workforce for this is getting older and, you know, realistically, some of us should probably move out, but we're not," Miller said. "We'll figure it out somehow. We always do. I wouldn't live any place else right now, to tell you the truth."

You can visit Candy Cane Lane now through Jan. 1 and drop off canned goods for the food drive benefiting the University District Food Bank.

Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.