Miami-Dade County

Holiday lights displays provide joy and inspiration

Miami Herald Staff

Since he was a toddler, Nick Caine has loved the glow of holiday lights.

He’d cruise around neighborhoods with his family to gaze at strings of red, green and amber light, bright reindeer and blow-up Santas. Over time, the 18-year-old turned used his inspiration to decorate the front of his home in North Miami Beach.

Three years ago, he used the money he’d been given for Christmas to buy marked-down lights after the holidays. He scored hundreds of dollars worth of lights that went up the following year in an elaborate display that has since grown into a canopy of lights, multiple inflatables and animated reindeer.

Visitors came in droves to see the spectacle at 1880 NE 181st St., and Caine decided to turn the holiday cheer into philanthropy.

“I’m very fortunate,” he said at a kickoff event held Dec. 6, the first night the display was lit. “I want to help those who are less fortunate.”

Selling food and pictures with Santa, he’s built “Nick’s Starlight Spectacular” into a big event that raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He partnered with Macy’s, where his mother works, to get a match for every dollar he raises. Through two holiday seasons, he’s raised $19,000 to fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. That’s enough to make four wishes come true.

Norman Wedderburn, president and CEO of the South Florida Make-A-Wish chapter, said the project speaks volumes about Caine. Make-A-Wish decided to honor Caine with its first “Young Philanthropist Innovation Award,” a new recognition for young people who show dedication to philanthropy.

“I’m just thinking it’s tremendous that something that started with him decorating the family home has grown into what it’s grown into,” he said.

This year’s kickoff was bigger than ever. Besides lights adorning every house on his block, the evening featured 21 carnival rides, food stands, a DJ spinning Top 40 hits and holiday music. He got 252 fellow Miami Beach Senior High students to volunteer at the spectacular, which welcomed more than 275 people in the first hour.

“He’s a driven guy,” said Honor Caine, Nick’s mother. “He loves to give back.”

The Caine home is one of several homes dressed with lights and inflatables this holiday season in South Florida. Let’s take a look at some of these displays.

20th Anniversary of the Rapport Family Holiday Display

For 20 years, Alan Rapport has erected a stunning display of lights at his Cutler Bay home.

The elaborate setup at 8740 SW 186 St., Cutler Bay, requires the work of two people over two weeks to assemble the display after the workday.

Rapport said part of the display is a tribute to Bill Clot, who for years would put up a big display in Pinecrest. Parts of that show are now featured at the Rapport home.

“This year, there are over twenty inflatable pieces, such as a 20-foot tall Santa Claus and an 18-foot tall snowman family,” Rapport said in an email to the Miami Herald. “Of course, Charlie Brown and Snoopy are also a part of the display. Many Santas can also be found in the display, as he pilots a plane, a helicopter, and rides a motorcycle. He can also be found on top of 30-foot and 40-foot tall towers.”

On its 20th anniversary, the Rapport display is open from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on the weekdays, and 6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the weekends and Christmas Eve. The display runs through Jan. 6th.

The Santiago Home

In the North Gables, the Santiago home is a popular holiday lights display.

Maryellen Santiago, at 1300 El Rado St. in Coral Gables, said families are welcome to see their spread until 9 p.m. each night of the week, with later hours during Christmas week.

“We have been filling our corner for the past 10 years with lights, inflatables, songs and a garden train that runs each evening,” she said.

The Cruz Home

For Hoffman Cruz, his home’s light display is an homage to his childhood, when he and his father would decorate the family home in Cutler Bay.

Even though his father is no longer around, the 21-year-old electric engineering student at Miami-Dade College has pressed on in his dad’s name.

“It was heartbreaking because he decorated our house,” he said. “Until I took over and continue our tradition.”

The yard at 9551 Martinique Dr. in Cutler Bay is decorated with inflatable snowmen, animated reindeer and Christmas trees made of lights, among other bright attractions. An bright angel rests on the rooftop, near an Eiffel Tower that twinkles. Cruz makes the Christmas trees with using tent anchors, PVC pipe and strings of lights.

The elaborate display isn’t cheap. The lights, usually on from 6 to 10 p.m. each night, cause the electricity bill to go up a few hundred dollars. But he’s softened the blow by switching the kind of lights he’s using.

“What I did this year and last year was use all LED lights,” he said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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Bright Lights

Here are more decorated homes to visit during this holiday season:

▪ The Hernandez home: 6465 W. 12th Ct., Hialeah, 33012

▪ The Steele home: 19281 Holiday Rd., Cutler Bay, 33157

▪ The Lazo home: 4245 SW 102nd Ct., Miami, 33165

▪ The Upshaw Home: 14205 SW 156 Terr. Miami, 33177