Wilmette, Community

Reindeer guide Santa’s sleigh tonight and every night on Wilmette Avenue

Who knew reindeer could live to be 70 years old — and counting?

If you don’t believe me, make sure to swing by the treasured holiday display at Bill Lambrecht’s home in the 2000 block of Wilmette Avenue.

Every evening through the holiday season in Lambrecht’s front yard, reindeer guide Santa’s sleigh into the sky over and over. The mechanical display has survived since the 1940s, when it debuted at the home of Warren Perkins on 7th Street and Linden Avenue.

Growing up, Lambrecht lived a few doors down from the Perkins family. He remembers springing over to the home every Christmas season to enjoy the “reindeer crossing,” complete with railroad lights and gate.

Warren Perkins son, also Warren, eventually took over the display and lived in the same home. When he moved, Lambrecht said, he actually kept the family home just to maintain the display.

Sixteen years ago, Warren the son passed the beloved decorations to Lambrecht, who has happily maintained the system ever since, he said.

Spectators of the rotating tree and reindeer crossing can enjoy free hot chocolate and candy canes on Christmas eve.

It hasn’t always been easy. Thanks to Lambrecht’s friend, the original mechanics were replaced and upgraded a few years ago. They can now be operated digitally. Two years ago, the system grinded to a halt and that same friend popped over to get things moving again.

And each year it gets more difficult for Lambrecht to construct the elaborate display. Fortunately, he said, his children are more than happy to led a hand.

The display also includes a rotating, 15-foot Christmas tree on the adjacent lawn, and Lambrecht has complemented the decorations with animatronic window displays, plenty of lights and a Santa on the rooftop.

Each year, dozens of folks drop by and chat with Lambrecht about the unique display. Some are Wilmette natives falling into nostalgia, others are newcomers seeing the magic for the first time.

If they are lucky, it is Christmas Eve, when the Lambrechts hand out free hot chocolate and candy canes from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

The reindeer crossing is not the only must-see stop in the New Trier area. Christmas on Cleveland is another can’t-miss.

A dancing, bright display at 1200 Cleveland St. is set to music that all can hear at 101.5 FM

In Glencoe, the park district compiled a list of the top local holiday sights for its Glencoe Holiday Lights Tour.

Included on the tour are: 424 Northwood Drive, 1097 Old Elm Lane, 847 Grove St., 725 Apple Tree Lane and 310 Harbor St.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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