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Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
December 28, 2006     Cape Gazette
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December 28, 2006

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14 - CAPE GAZETTE - Wednesday, December 27 - Thursday, December 28, 2006 CAPE LIFE Rehoboth Day Care Center hosts holiday program Steven Billups photos Rehoboth Day Care held a Christmas program Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the canter. Students sang Christmas carols for par- ents and board members and also had a chance to talk with Santa. Singing one of their songs are (l-r) Nyzeir Edwards, Davonte Lewis, Hylea Lisonby and Jalen White. Enjoying their time on stage are (l-r) Lanae Lewis, Jaylen White and Kevin Cespedes. Above, the children all try to get thi attention from Santa as he made an appear- ance at the end of the pro- gram. At left, Ganiya Long rushes to show her parents the bag of gifts she received from members of the Delaware Seashore Parrot Heads Club. Saltn ater Portrait Steve Prestipino lights up the holidays in Rehoboth By Molly Albertson cole Gazette staff With 80,000 tiny lights dancing in full color to the tune of famifiar holiday songs, Steve Prestipino's light display is a scene from a movie come to life. He's even outdone the famous Clark Griswald's display of twinkling Italian lights in the movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," because his are animat- ed to music and controlled by computers from the basement of Apple Electric. The light display isn't just for show either; it's a fundraiser to help local children have a better holiday. Prestipino said he's not a Christmas nut; he just likes to do the display. "I'm not that guy. It's like anyone, we all like Christmas," he said. He started stringing the lights on his electri- cal contractor business in 1999 as a way to advertise the business. 'q'he county wouldn't let us put lights on our sign because back then it was zoned residential," he STEVE PRESTIPINO said. So, instead of hanging two spotlights on a sign, he hung up 3,000 light bulbs. It's grown over the years into a Rehoboth tradi- tion, where drivers pull over on the shoulders of Route 24 to watch the lights. "This thing has gotten to where it's at because we saw we could do it as a fundraiser," he said. Two years ago, he added music to the show, and now drivers tune their car radios to 88.7 and watch lights choreographed to Christmas car- ols. "It gets attention and we thought as long as people stop to look at it, we'd tie it into a fundralser," he said. The fLrst few years they raised several thousand dollars by holding a 50/50 raffle for the volunteer fire departmenL But in 2004, Prestipino changed the whole concept. "It was time consuming and not as much money as we hoped to give to the fire department," he said. He bought a computer system that controls the lightshow and coordi- nates it with music, and he quit asking for money. Instead, Apple Electric collects toys for the Toys for Tots foundation. "Somewhere along the way we shifted and immediately noticed people gave more freely," Prestipino said. This year they collected more than 1,500 toys, including 92 bicycles. Prestipino is the father of four children. He and his wife, Lisa, wanted to give to other chil- dren whose parents might not be able to. But they agreed they wanted to be generous, and to give what they knew kids really want- ed. Prestipino said he wanted to give large toys and bikes, not just small items. "A lot of kids that are in need aren't in the perfect home, and parents aren't guiding them. Give a kid a ball or a bike and they're off and running," he said. Last year was the fh'st time any- one donated bikes to Toys for Tots when he offered to match all the bikes donated. "We started it last year when a friend came in and donated a bike, and I said I'd match it. We men- tioned it on the radio, and opened it up for the public," he said, Last year they collected 50 bikes, and challenged themselves to get even more this year by expanding the show. This year, there are more than 80,000 light bulbs in the display. Prestipino doesn't do it alone any- more; he said his crew of about 20 employees is responsible for the display. In fact, he didn't person- ally hang any of the lights this year, and he admits that he didn't hang any lights on his own home. "When I tell people we hang Christmas lights for a living, they say we should get out and get a real job, but it's hard work, and it takes a lot of creativity," Prestipino said. His crew started at the end of October, and finished up just in time to flip the switch on Thanksgiving Day. The lights stay on until mid-January. Prestipino spends thousands of dollars on the display each year. He said he spent more than $30,000 in 2005. But that doesn't stop him from lighting up Route 24 for more than a month. Prestipino said he looks forward to each year. "It's more about thanks to the community for a great year, and some people feel obliged to bring toys," he said. What started as an advertisement quickly turned into a tradition that raises holiday cheer and toy s for locals.