Ever walk down the street and see a beautifully decorated home, adorned with twinkling lights and big red bows for the holiday season?
It's easy to think, "I wish that was my house."
Darrin Selking, owner of Landscape Illumination Inc. in Valparaiso, says it can be.
The company is one of a handful of Northwest Indiana businesses that decorate homes and businesses for the holidays, providing a no frills approach for many who don't have the time or don't want the hassle of lighting up their properties during the season.
"When we started doing landscape lighting 13 years ago, the holiday lighting was just kind of a natural flow from one to the other," Selking said.
Now, the company has between 300 and 400 clients each Christmas season - mostly residences whose homeowners want to be festive, but dread the thought of dragging out the ladder and spending their weekends outside in the cold.
Kathy Ribik knows that first hand.
As owner of Artistic Visions in Valparaiso, Ribik says she's always had a passion for decorating - most likely stemming from watching her mother meticulously decorate for the holidays.
"I remember watching my dad complain about hanging decorations where my mom had to have them," she said.
Now, Ribik's job is to light up the community around her, and far beyond.
"We don't have any boundaries," she said. "I've actually been to Florida to install lights. We've done a lot of work in Chicago and all the way to Buffalo and Indianapolis."
Benjamin Carter, manager of Christmas Creations in Crown Point, said in just six years, the company has seen work in the community dramatically increase.
"We serve Lake and Porter counties, and the south suburbs of Chicago, and that keeps us hopping and quite busy," he said.
Although most of his business is residential, Selking said he has seen a boom in the number of cities requesting assistance with their decorations.
"Commercial is getting bigger every year, and we've done a lot of stuff for cities like Valparaiso, Hobart and Michigan City," he said.
This year in Valparaiso, he said the company is decorating four large 30-foot trees located on the southwest corner of the courthouse near Old World Market and Figure Eight Brewing.
"The trees will have what look like light drops," he said. "They're these tubes that hang in the trees that make it look like it's snowing."
A typical day for someone with the job of hanging Christmas lights varies, but based on the size of the job, crews may only see one to two properties each day. That means even though the temperatures may still be warm out, employees begin designing plans and hanging some lights throughout the city or at properties as early as late summer and early fall.
"It's stressful, but it puts us in the holiday spirit fast," Carter said.
While some companies will offer to hang lights owned by the homeowner or business owner, Carter said Christmas Creations owns all the lights and decorations hung - giving the company complete quality control.
While many clients have expressed an interest in LED lights because of their environmentally-friendly and budget-saving qualities, one thing that's stayed consistent from year to year is a classic look.
"There's a lot that stays traditional about Christmas lights," Carter said. "People like classic and beautiful."
However, design crews love working with clients who have open imaginations.
"Our design crews enjoy the clients who say they want to do it all, but aren't sure how," he said.
Once the holiday season is over, crews begin the take down process - spending the cold months of January and February removing and storing the lights for the next year. Once Spring hits, companies merge into new roles - some as landscape lighting consultants and others as party consultants.
Before hiring a contractor, Ribik advises home and business owners to do their homework and double check that the companies they are considering are licensed and insured.
"Check with the Better Business Bureau, which will tell you a lot of things," she said.