25 years of Christmas light displays come to a close in Missoula - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

25 years of Christmas light displays come to a close in Missoula neighborhood

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© Photo From:Tara Schmelebeck. © Photo From:Tara Schmelebeck.
MISSOULA -

For Missoula residents who visit Christmas light displays every year, ABC FOX Montana has some sad news. 

A special house on Washburn that's been decked out in lights for decades will be dark this year after one of the homeowners, Ricki Koch, passed away.      

The decorating started early, every year around October 1st Ricki and Dave Koch would start putting up lights and Christmas decor.

Every year, starting on Thanksgiving eve they would open their home to visitors to walk through their amazing display.

It was amazing! With more than 35,000 lights it wasn't hard to find the house.

"It looks like a mini Vegas, just in this little house. It's just all lite up,” said Tara Schmelebeck.

That mini Vegas, a legacy of lights started with Tara's mom, Ricki and her love for Christmas.

Ricki added on her to display almost every year, a Ferris wheel, an American flag and of course of a Santa Claus.

 All of these decorations made her lawn and her home a sight to see.

However, the lights will be out this year.

Ricki passed away about three months ago and her daughter said it's just not the same without her.

It's not the putting up of it. It's full of our family memories and the fact the person that it was for isn't here. And in that right, it's a tribute to her. It was a tribute to her from the beginning,” said Schmelebeck.

The decision to go without lights didn't come easy for Tara and her step-father.

"I think he feels like he is letting the community down. Because he decided not to do it. Which I told him, you are not letting anyone down. You need to grieve. I think we need to respect that,” said Schmelebeck.

For now, these strings of lights and decorations will stay tucked away in storage.

While they may not be on display Ricki's legacy of lights will live on with her family.      

It may be the end of a tradition at this home.

However, this family hopes other families in Missoula will carry on the legacy of lights at their own homes. 

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