Tinley Park man lights up home for holiday loot
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org November 12, 2013 5:00PM
Updated: December 26, 2013 2:27PM
Dominic Kowalczyk’s Tinley Park home becomes a traffic-stopping spectacle in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Each year it’s decked out with thousands of lights as well as handmade and store-bought decorations, but this year he’s upped the ante in hopes of snagging a share of $250,000 in prize money as an entrant in ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”
Kowalczyk is one of 20 homeowners from around the country picked by the show’s producers to compete, and a crew spent several hours Monday night taping the segment his home will be featured in, set to air Dec. 23.
The program’s judges, Michael Moloney and Sabrina Soto, from ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” mingled with Kowalczyk’s friends and family gathered for the big unveiling, which Kowalczyk said has surpassed previous years’ displays.
“We doubled up a lot of lights, and this year everything is choreographed to music,” he said.
Kowalczyk said he had an additional electric line run to the house a couple of years ago to help power the ever-growing holiday display. He estimated 100,000 lights were used this year.
An inflatable snowman is perched on the roof of the house, 17321 Avon Lane, and the roof itself is laced with lights. Over the driveway, a canopy of lights and a sign “Winter Wonderland” beckons.
Candy canes share the front yard with an array of Tiki torches, palm trees and an enormous inflatable parrot in a Jimmy Buffett-themed “Christmas in Parrotdise.”
Giving the scene a frosty winter feel were Monday night’s bitter temperatures, and a dusting of snow covering the fallen leaves. Family and friends of Kowalczyk who’d gathered for the unveiling followed instructions from a megaphone-wielding director who, figuratively speaking, warmed up the crowd in anticipation of the arrival of Moloney and Soto and had them give mock reactions for the camera to the home being lit up long before the actual event.
Kowalczyk said the producers of the program actually sought him out, contacting him after seeing his home featured in a book about Chicago-area homes elaborately decorated for Christmas.
He completed an application last year and had pretty much forgotten about it until he was contacted in late September of this year.
“They said they were going to use us, then a couple days later called back and said they weren’t,” Kowalczyk said.
A few days later, however, he was told that yes, he was in. The bad news was he had just 21 days to complete the Herculean task — some of the work in progress was filmed a couple weeks ago.
Kowalczyk has a full-time job, he owns a construction company, and a previously planned five-day trip to Las Vegas with some buddies also compressed his schedule.
“We’ve just been going crazy trying to get it done,” he said.
Kowalczyk’s neighbors to the east, Robert and Ann Kmak, turned over the use of their garage to the show’s production crew, which offered hot chocolate and hand warmers to those who braved the weather to be part of the taping.
Kowalczyk, 30, grew up in the house, which he ultimately bought from his parents. He said the family’s tradition of extensive Christmas decorations goes back years, and that the family received an award from the village for its display in 1996.
Robert Kmak said he and his wife plan to watch the program, and have enjoyed the evolution of their neighbor’s display over the years.
“He adds a little something to it every year,” he said.