Gladstone glimmers: Local family goes all out with Christmas decor
The Bookes spend an entire month putting their decorations up, much to the delight of their neighbors and community.
GLADSTONE, N.D. — The Booke family pulls out all the stops when it comes to Christmas traditions. Everything they do during the holidays is extreme, from the beautifully placed holiday decor to the number of people they manage to fit in one home during their festivities. A massive lighted tree in their front yard is the first thing that catches the eye when pulling into Gladstone.
The tree is lit every year, but Sandy Booke, who has resided in the home with her husband, Kevin Booke, for 36 years says they have had to think outside the box to get the lights into the tree every year.
“When we moved in it was like five feet, now it's over 50 feet,” Booke said. “We had to rent a man lift this year to do the tree.”
Her son, Kendall Booke, and daughter-in-law, Jessica Booke, live nearby. They decorate the exterior of the house and the giant tree.
“I like lights,” Kendall Booke said. “I think in junior high I started taking over the lights and one time I had all those windows in the front outlined. Every one. It was so cool.”
For several years, Jessica Booke climbed the tree to decorate it. They later resorted to tying rocks onto strings of lights and throwing them into the tree.
“This year we had the lift and when we took out some of the old lights we were kind of laughing because in past years you can tell that we've gotten kind of creative,” Jessica Booke said. “I think one year we had like six broomsticks we taped together and had them rigged up to try to get them up there.”
One year a set of lights malfunctioned and sparked, causing the tree to smoke, Kendall Booke said. The star at the top of the tree has also been an ever evolving process.
“I think we have like three stars up there that are buried in the tree somewhere,” Sandy Booke said.
The Bookes are confident the rig they have this year will hold up. They made a five foot tall star fixed to a bar that is fastened to the tree.
“The issue we've had is that tree grows by at least a foot a year and so it like eats the star every year,” Jessica Booke said.
The outside of the house is also lined with lights. In years past they did more decorating outside, but since the unforgiving North Dakota wind has destroyed many decorations they stick to lights now, Kendall said.
The Christmas cheer doesn’t end outside. Sandy Booke also takes her interior decorating to the max, devoting an entire month to hanging it all up. In fact, it’s hard to find a square foot inside of their home that isn’t adorned with garland and ornaments.
“I started the first of November,” she said. “When it goes up you want everything to look just right and even.”
She has over 20 Christmas teddy bears with the year they were purchased embroidered onto them. She even made the 2020 Christmas bear a mask. She will need to install more shelving before next year, as all existing shelves are currently full.
“It's something about the season,” she said. “We just love it.”
Part of their love may originate from the fact that Sandy’s birthday is Dec. 27 and Kevin’s is Christmas Day, she said. However, Kevin Booke doesn’t like to get involved in the decorating.
“All I do is pay the bill,” he said with a smile.
Every room in the house has a decked out Christmas tree except the bathroom, although the bathroom is fully decorated for the holidays. Even her pet bird has a miniature Christmas tree. A beautiful gold spider in a web that was handmade by Sandy Booke dangles from the dining room tree. The ornament is a Ukrainian tradition that is supposed to bring good luck for the next year, Sandy Booke said.
A giant nutcracker stands watch in the dining room, playing Christmas music and an intricate miniature village takes over much of the living room.
“I don't think I've ever met anybody like Sandy that gets so into it,” Jessica Booke said.
She started a tradition of hiding a tiny figurine amongst the Christmas displays for Sandy Booke to find every time they visit during the holiday season.They also watch Christmas movies almost daily the month of December.
Christmas Eve is the big day for the Bookes. There are usually 30 to 40 people who squeeze into the house, often spilling out into the garage when they run out of room. The streets alongside the corner house are always lined with vehicles, Kendall Booke said.
“It’s our family, but our friends, if they have nowhere to go, we invite them,” Sandy said.
Acquaintances and strangers have also made their way to the dinner table, Kendall said.
“That's what it's about though,” he said.
Sandy prepares all of the food herself, although Kendall usually helps her catch the fish she serves. The feast includes Ukrainian dishes among others. She has already begun baking sweets for the event.
“There's so much food,” Kendall said. “You can't even imagine. There's stuff going home with everybody.”
Once everyone goes home and the mess is cleaned up, it takes about a week to put all the decor away, Sandy said.
“I'm always sad when it's over,” she said.