If you drive by Jeff and Candice Keener's Bothell home this time of year, it's pretty common to see the couple outside checking their Christmas lights, making sure every bulb is lit.
The Keener's know everything needs to be ready, because when the clock strikes 6 p.m. (as long as it's not too windy or rainy), Jeff and Candice step inside, flip three switches and in the blink of an eye some 100,000 lights are suddenly illuminated. They call it, simply, Keener's Christmas.
"Keener's Christmas is our personal wonderland. Our own little Disneyland," said Candice. "We set up over 100,000 Christmas lights for our community and friends to enjoy and we just absolutely love it."
Keener's Christmas is more than a light display. It's a front yard transformed into a winter wonderland. The yard is divided into distinctly different 'lands'. There's Santa land, blow-up land, snowman land, and deer land, along with gingerbread houses, candy canes and nutcrackers. It is, in a word, epic, which makes sense since Jeff and Candice start decorating IN SEPTEMBER.
"Jeff starts testing the lights which takes hours and hours. Hundreds of hours to test the lights. Every single lightbulb. And it's just Jeff and I. We set up and everything. Just the two of use," explained Candice.
"I'm 48, so I feel like I'm in my peak, my prime of light handing right now," added Jeff. "I think this year I did my best light hanging."
What started almost a decade ago as a passion project, borne of Jeff's love of Christmas lights, has become something else entirely. Now visitors come from all over the region. For many, Keener's Christmas is a yearly tradition.
"I think sometimes we don't realize what we've created," said Jeff.
"We don't want to let anybody down or disappoint anybody," explained Candice. "We know we started this and we've got to be bigger and better for the people who come every year."
So, why do Jeff and Candice do it? Well, it;'s about more than just spreading joy. It's about celebrating the spirit of the season. At Keener's Christmas, the Keeners collect non-perishable food donations for Hopelink. They also raise money for Children's Hospital. According to Jeff, over the past eight years they've raised more than $90,000 for cancer research.
"Of course it feels awesome," said Candice, her eyes welling with tears. "There's a lot of families who have lost a lot. Jeff and I, we don't have children of our own. So, this is just our way to give back to our community."
"That's what makes it all worthwhile [putting up lights] out in the rain. All the hard work is to be able to help other people at the end of the day," said Jeff.
Of course, help doesn't just come in in the form of donations. Sometimes the greatest help is giving folks a chance to laugh, to smile. To pile into the car and enjoy the magic that comes from the sight of hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights.
"I just hope for a little bit of time they're driving through here they can enjoy themselves. They can forget the troubles they're going through and have some peace," said Jeff. "You know, just to make people happy, that's the biggest thing."
Keener's Christmas runs daily from 6 - 10 p.m. during the month of December (weather permitting). If you're planning to visit, check their Facebook page in advance to ensure the lights are on.