December 23, 2009

NEW ZEALAND: Iris has 97 Santas

. AUCKLAND, New Zealand / East and Bays Courier / Events / December 23, 2009 By Melanie Verran - East And Bays Courier SYMPHONY OF SANTAS: Iris Franks proudly displays her collection of 97 singing Santas. Photo: Kristin Leitch Ninety-seven singing Santas greet wide-eyed visitors as they gaze in awe at the most spectacular Christmas display in the eastern suburbs. And Iris Franks and her husband Ray welcome them with open arms. Their Glen Innes home, at 97 West Tamaki Rd, is now known as The Santa House and it's rivalling Ponsonby's Franklin Rd. It takes Mr Franks most of November to organise and set up the outdoor light displays, which include fairy lights, Santas, candy canes, reindeer, sleighs and Christmas bells. The huge collection of carolling Santas has its own custom-built bleacher stand. Every day, from December 1 to January 6, Mrs Franks moves her collection from her living room to the porch, and back again each night. "I love this time of year," she says. "I hate it when it finishes." The East & Bays Courier visited the house after several readers nominated it as their favourite Christmas light display. The pair first put up a display eight years ago with icicle lights Mrs Franks was given by her twin sister. She liked them so much that she's been expanding her collection of lights and Santas at Boxing Day sales ever since. Among her favourites are an Elvis Santa, a Santa riding a reindeer who can do backflips and a dancing Mr and Mrs Claus. Determined to take her singing Santa total to 100, she's considering a shopping trip to the United States to find a couple more that she doesn't already have. The joy the display brings to all their guests has prompted the couple to make it an annual highlight. "One little girl down the back comes up every night to see the Santas before bed," Mrs Franks says. "It's lovely, seeing their faces. That's what Christmas is all about - seeing the joy we give to others. "They take a lot of batteries and use a lot of power but so what? It's Christmas." The Franks have had more power points installed so they can accommodate their growing collection. Their living room houses the display during the day and on wet nights, and visitors are welcome to step inside. The lights are turned on when it's dark, usually around 8pm, and the house stays open until the last admirer has gone. Comments in the visitor's book thank the Franks for giving them joy and putting on a magical display for Christmas. For the last three years, they have used the exhibit as an opportunity to raise money for charity by asking for donations. Last year they raised $1700 for CanTeen. This year, Mrs Franks, a cancer survivor, chose dove house, the Eastern Bays day hospice. [rc] © 2009 Fairfax New Zealand Limited