Greg Camp and his Santa Claus assistant begin decorating houses in the middle of October. Photo by Kathy Feist
When Decorating Homes for Christmas Becomes a Profession
By Jill Draper
’Tis the season to spread holiday cheer by outlining your roof, trees and shrubbery with sparkly white lights. Or colored lights, or a giant blue and red configuration that spells out “KU.”
Greg Camp, who runs a business called The Christmas Lights Guy, has seen it all. He decorates some 200 homes and yards every year beginning in mid-October and finishing by mid-December. He’ll work with a client to provide a unique display, but 90 percent of the time people choose a classic look with little white lights.
Camp studied art in college and he always concentrates on balance and symmetry in his designs, making sure that doors and entryways are accented as well as rooflines and plantings. While LED lights have become popular, he still prefers incandescent lights on most jobs for their warmth and beauty.
He sells and custom-fits the decorating materials for first-time clients. After that, they pay only for labor, which ranges from $300 to $500 for an average household display.
“This business is fun because generally people are in a really good mood and they’re happy to see you,” he says. One of his assistants with a naturally white beard often wears a red Santa suit, which delights the kids. And Camp owns an extra-tall green elf outfit, purchased by his wife, that fits his 6-foot-3-inch height. He might appear in that for an extra charge, he jokes
Camp takes a two-month break from his job as a carpenter to work fulltime installing and taking down holiday lights. He started this side business 14 years ago after noticing decorations on various nice homes with extensive rooflines. “Surely the homeowner didn’t do that,” he remembers thinking. So he ran an ad and acquired clients by word of mouth.
His Grain Valley home in Summerfield East requires six dedicated circuits to run holiday lights on all four sides and on every tree in the yard. He also installs an extensive light display for the subdivision entrance which accents four huge evergreens.
Camp’s No. 1 tip for do-it-yourself homeowners is to be safe and stay away from high roofs and trees.
His crew uses 40-foot ladders and extension poles with hooks to reach high spots—items not typically found in a garage or toolshed. He also advises testing the lights before installation to make sure they’re in working order. Measuring is good, too.
“Sometimes we see a house where someone got to the end of the gutter and still had 25 feet of lights left that they wadded up into a ball,” Camp says. “We call that an apple.”
For his clients he tapes all connections with electrical tape to keep water out, and he usually installs a timer so that when residents are out and about they can come home to a beautifully lit house.
“That way you get to enjoy your own lights,” he says.
(For more information on the Christmas Light Guy home decorating, call 913-308-5884.)