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If you've driven on the Arborway in Jamaica Plain recently, chances are you've seen Dominic Luberto's house.
Luberto covers almost every inch of his 11 bedroom Tudor castle in holiday decorations. There's a sparkling Santa and a train with spinning wheels. There's a pair of penguins and an elephant whose moving trunk makes it look as if it's presenting visitors with a gift.
Each evening after dark, dozens of cars pull up and people get out to gawk at Luberto's wonderland. WBUR's Abigail Beshkin set out to find out why the Jamaica Plain resident is so intent on decking the halls.
TEXT OF STORY:
ABIGAIL BESHKIN: Dominic Luberto is especially proud of one piece of his Christmas extravaganza. This year he topped his house with a 650-pound, 23-foot diameter gold crown.
DOMINIC LUBERTO: People ask me what that crown means... Christ is the king and I want to celebrate his birthday.
BESHKIN: Luberto's a born-again Christian and his faith is a big part of why he says he goes all out to celebrate Jesus' birthday. His other reason , he says, is that he loves to make children laugh.
DOMINIC LUBERTO: If you give these little kids
10 dollars in their hands and tell them to laugh they wouldn't laugh the way they are just looking at the lights. That's what it's all about.
BESHKIN: Luberto, who is originally from Argentina, says looking at Christmas lights is one of his favorite childhood memories from when he moved to Massachusetts.
DOMINIC LUBERTO: When I was growing up in Revere they did this for me, the entire neighborhood, not one person, the entire neighborhood. And I was missing that.
BESHKIN: So Luberto set out to transform his house into a winter wonderland. He began decorating his castle-style house-- which is estimated to be worth $1.7 million-dollars-- when he moved in in 2005. He aims to make each year's light display more eye-popping than the last. This year he doubled the number of lights to half a million.
DOMINIC LUBERTO: I don't go half way, I go all the way or I don't do it at all, and that's the way people should do it, if you're going to do something just do it right, go all the way and do it right.
BESHKIN: Luberto got an architect to prove to the city of Boston the crown wouldn't topple in a strong wind. He hired an electrician to add 80 circuit breakers in his basement. Luberto calls himself a retired musician, who also owns several rental properties. But for several months of the year the display becomes Luberto's full-time job.
The decorations inside Luberto's house are almost as plentiful. Step inside and you're greeted by angels... Reindeer... Poinsettias... And a four-foot singing and dancing Santa in the dining room.
However, there's one room Luberto says he will not
decorate for Christmas. It's his prayer room. It's spare, and peaceful and only for serious reflection. In it, he speaks in a whisper.
DOMINIC LUBERTO: We come here to pray. And it's so relaxing and so open, you open yourself to God in such a way that it's unbelievable.
BESHKIN: Down the hall is Luberto's recording studio-- one of two where he mixes music with religious lyrics.
One of his dreams is to launch a Christian-music Spanish radio station.
Every night dozens of people stop outside Luberto's Arborway home. They stare at the 30-foot Christmas tree designed to look like an American flag and at the inflatable characters, Mickey Mouse, toy soldiers and snowmen that line the edge of the house.
On a recent evening, Danielle and Chris Mcdonald came from Norwood with their 16-month-old daughter and praised Luberto's effort.
CHRIS AND DANIELLE MCDONALD: How can you complain about this when you're standing here and you see all the joy on all the young kids walking up and down the street. I agree ... I mean there's so many children out here who have smiles on their faces and it's really nice and I do thank them as well for putting this on because I'm sure it's quite a pinch to their pocket.
BESHKIN: Luberto is vague about the exact pinch to his pocket. Last year's electric bills were about 2-thousand dollars a month during the season. The house draws so much electricity that N-Star had to upgrade a nearby transformer.
One visitor, Maria Depeetro, says the amount of electricity that powers the display is wasteful. But she was persuaded to come here by her three year old daughter.
MARIA DEPEETRO: Excess? Entirely. I'm kind of a minimalist so I just find it, yah, incredible excess.
BESHKIN: The draw on the electricity is one thing that's created bad blood with some environmentally-minded neighbors. They also fear car wrecks from rubbernecking. Others complain the half million lights keep them up at night. But Luberto dismisses these complaints as ... Well... Grinch-like.
LUBERTO: There's a lot of people talking, but they don't do anything.
BESHKIN: There is one concern that city officials share with neighbors. Car accidents on the fast-moving Arborway. By law Luberto can't be forced to hire for a police detail. So Boston City Councilor John Tobin asked him to. Luberto refused saying the Arborway is safer when cars slow down to see his lights. Not so says Councilor Tobin.
JOHN TOBIN: I said Dominic this would all go for naught... You're doing this spectacle out of the spirit of the season, and Christmas and for the kids, I said it would all be for naught if someone got hurt.
BESHKIN: Tobin plans to ask the governor to step in and require Luberto tom hire a police detail. But Luberto says he's providing what's arguably the city's largest Christmas display for free. In fact he's one of a dozen semi-finalists in America's Festive Fanatics contest — being held by fast-food chain KFC. If he wins, he says the state will have not only the best baseball, basketball and football teams... But also the best Christmas house. Dominic Luberto says his house belongs in the league of champions.
For WBUR, I'm Abigail Beshkin.
This program aired on December 18, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.
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