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A not so bright Christmas? High electric rates take ‘heartbreaking’ toll on some people’s holiday displays.

Bill West's home in Ware, before he had to take his inflatable yard decorations down due to the high cost of electricity.Lindsay Allison

For nearly five years, Ware resident Bill West has assembled an extravagant holiday display in his yard. Full of colorful strings of lights, an assortment of inflatables like reindeer guiding Santa’s sleigh, and glowing figurines, it’s a festive scene that always attracts groups of eager visitors to the neighborhood.

But this year, his holiday spectacle, which has become a cornerstone of the community, was downsized dramatically. Last week, he packed up almost all the inflatable characters, leaving only a towering Grinch with a devilish smirk behind.

Tradition for many families at Christmastime includes a drive around local neighborhoods, gazing at the twinkling lights and ornate outdoor displays set up on people’s properties.


But this season, displays like West’s have been dimmed and aren’t staying up as long as they used to — or even going up at all.

Bill West's home in Ware, before and after he had to take his inflatable yard decorations down due to the high cost of electricity.Lindsay Allison

The culprit? Soaring electric rates, a problem that’s become familiar to those hoping to brighten people’s spirits this Christmas.

West, 76, said his electric bill rose substantially compared to last year after he arranged his props and lights for the same duration. The cost, he said, surged from about $60 to almost $300 over 15 days — a roughly 400 percent increase.

“It’s sad,” he said. “I took it down right away because I didn’t want to give it a lot of thought.”

The jump in electric rates has forced many residents to reach deep into their pockets. And now the staggering spike — winter power bills are expected to rise more than 60 percent — has led them to try and find ways to save money to avoid the sticker shock.

National Grid measures the holiday season as Nov. 25 to Jan. 6, a period when customers can expect to see their electric bill go up, sometimes by as much as a few hundred dollars. The utility company recommends consumers cut costs by upgrading their incandescent bulbs to LEDs and reconsider using inflatable yard decorations, which can jack up bills.


“They may be fun to look at, but inflatable yard ornaments are among the holiday’s largest energy consumers,” according to National Grid’s website. “Keeping just one inflated could add as much as $12 per month to a bill.”

This means people like West have had to alter their cherished displays, while others have skipped hanging up lights altogether.

When West’s daughter, Lindsay Allison, shared the news that he was scaling back, on a community Facebook page recently, she was met with an outpouring of support and messages from others who made the same decision.

“We are gutted that it may have to come to an end. Just know you all make the [effort], time, and hard work [worthwhile],” Allison, 31, wrote. “Thank you for all the memories.”

Some commented that their own inflatables remained tucked away in bins, while others refrained from placing any illuminated reindeer or candy canes outside. Even more noted that they were shutting off their lights earlier than usual this year, or opted out of decorating entirely.

Many people directed their ire squarely at the utility companies. While one person said they were responsible for “ruining the Christmas spirit,” another commenter criticized National Grid “for grinching our Holiday Season!”

After Dianna Rizzo and her fiancé, Thomas James, looked at their electric bill online at the beginning of this month, James, 51, unplugged all of the decorations outside their Ware home later that night. Rizzo, 46, said the couple’s rates had soared, putting the cost of their most recent bill at $736 and change.


The couple had only just started putting their holiday items out when it came to a screeching halt. Totes full of decorations sit on the porch. Garland is wrapped around the banister, and wreaths are on the doors. The inflatables are unplugged, but the couple haven’t had the heart to put them away.

“There’s no way I can afford [to decorate]. It’s very disappointing. It’s heartbreaking,” Rizzo said.

Like others, Rizzo recalled her parents packing the family into the car to take a spin through town and see the festive light displays. It didn’t cost a dime and filled the children with a sense of wonder. But now, many have said on social media, there aren’t as many lights or decor on homes, likely as a result of expenses climbing.

When Allison told residents that her father’s display would be coming down prematurely, many thanked West for his dedication. They asked if they could set up donations to keep the holiday staple running. It was the home, West said, that kids would stop and look at daily.

The response has touched the family.

Allison said West will turn the lights back on Thursday through Saturday evening, right before Christmas. But without the inflatables, she said, it won’t be quite the same.


“The inflatables are really what brings people. . . . It’s kind of a winter wonderland on a corner street,” Allison said. “He goes above and beyond to get a smile on people’s faces; get those kids to feel the holiday cheer.”

“To take down that positivity is devastating,” she said.

Bill West's home in Ware after he had to take his inflatable yard decorations down due to the high cost of electricity.Lindsay Allison

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.