The Season of Illumination
News Press - Cathy Chestnut, Special to Grandeur
Trimmers Holiday Decor lights the way for Southwest Florida’s sparkling, large-scale holiday light displays.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but for Bill and Marji Kilgus, it’s been shaping up that way since late July.
The husband-and-wife team own and operate Trimmers Holiday Decor based in Collier County and for 25 years, they’ve been creating extensive, innovative exterior holiday lighting displays from downtown Naples and Marco Island to Bonita Springs, and on through to Lee and Charlotte counties. The Kilguses, who were Naples High School sweethearts, live the magic practically most of the year, taking a break from May to June.
“It just blossomed. We just love it,” he says. “I just love coming up with new ideas.”
What started with decorating the exterior of three grand mansions in the fanciest Naples enclaves really took off for Bill, who owned a landscaping business, when he was asked to light the outstretched trees at Waterside Shops. That led to all of the high-rises and condos in Pelican Bay, and to The Ritz-Carlton; requests proliferated and doubled each year. Bill finally chucked landscaping when the demand and profits proved great, and he realized it was something he simply loved to do. Ever since, Trimmers has led the way in Southwest Florida innovating concepts, decking the streets for Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South in Naples—distinct districts he strung with 100,000 lights for both this year.
With more than 400 clients that Marji helps keep track of, his seasonal 40-strong team regroups when it’s sweltering and children are preparing to return to school. Beginning August 1, they review the warehouses’ inventory on their Golden Gate Estates property; checking in orders of ribbon, antique sleighs, hand-crafted, life-size Nutcracker soldiers and trees soaring to 28 feet; researching sources for proprietary lighting and decorations, and planning updated designs for clients large and small.
No item is overlooked and Kilgus works each year to push the boundaries of his designs. It took him two years, for example, to track down “sunburst effect” lights that caught his eye one holiday season on the famous Rockefeller Center tree during a regular visit to New York City. Found them he did, and he’s been using them for about four years. Do you remember when the large royal palms at the entrances of gated communities stretching throughout Southwest Florida began appearing with their palms lit with white lights two decades ago? That was Trimmers Holiday Decor. When other companies began emulating the look, Bill took it another step by doing the tree trunks, too.
Have you seen the glowing orbs in downtown Naples? The “snow tubes” that appear to turn the Venetian Village into a veritable winter wonderland? That’s Kilgus, too.
The handiwork of Trimmers Holiday Decor adorns Bonita Springs, Captiva and Sanibel, The Forest, Gateway, Jamaica Bay, Grendezza, Stoneybrook, South Seas Plantation, Bella Vita in Cape Coral and more. Go down Treeline Drive or Immokalee Road and “we’re one end to the other,” he says. Beginning Sept. 1, at least three crews of five began installing lights six days a week; it steps up to seven days by Sept. 20, running through Dec. 15. They check their installations three nights a week.
Clearly, Kilgus is not one to get frustrated over tangled lines, outages or conflicts with irrigation systems (sprinklers don’t mix well with lights). In fact, it was a major mishap that happened when he was 8 or 9 that serves as an indelible memory and sparked his passion for installing holiday lights—the right way. He had always assisted his father in lighting their ranch home in New York. So one afternoon, when his father was working his shift as a firefighter, he told his son to go ahead and decorate. Little Bill strung the long roofline and its peak and he went with swelling pride to plug it in at the usual garage outlet. “I did it backwards. I had the female end and not the male end. I had to take the whole thing back down,” he recalls, still laughing about the incident. His father chuckled when he returned home and heard about the problem. He pointed out that his son could have plugged it in elsewhere—he didn’t have to dismantle the project. “I just liked it from there,” Kilgus says with the mirth of Santa. “Everyone enjoys lights; it’s all good. There is no use getting upset. If something goes wrong, you step back, fix it and move on.”
The garland, wreaths, bows and trees all come down by Jan. 10; all of the lights within five weeks. There may be as many as 170,000 lights in a single development. Then, like Santa returning to the North Pole, the Kilguses kick back at their lake house in Maine, dreaming of the season past and the one to come.