It’s Hampden for the Holidays, Hon

(photo by P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR)

(photo by P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR)

When it comes to decorating for the holidays, it’s hard to beat the annual light fest in the 700 block of 34th Street in Hampden, sometimes called the “Miracle on 34th.”

In fact real estate blog Redfin ranked Baltimore second in the country for holiday lights, citing the displays in Hampden.

One of the miracles on this street is that each house tells a story. All of them put together tell the story of people celebrating the holidays together.

“We each individually do our own homes and then when people need help or lights need to go across the street we all volunteer,” said Jim Pollock, “the artist on 34th Street” whose front yard sports two Christmas trees – one made from hubcaps and another with Old Bay cans as ornaments, “It’s a wonderful effort.”

Pollack has lived in his house for 24 years. His living room, where Natty Boh angels line a mantel piece, is a gallery for his work and two other artists.

Pollock has been working with metal since an unfortunate incident; someone burned down the shed that stored most of his paintings and wood sculptures. “I decided to switch over to metal so the next time they burned me out of my living I’d be able to go through the ashes, pick up my stuff and move on with my life,” he said.

Across the street, two plastic dogs in Santa hats perch on the balcony and a bigger, inflatable dog fills part of the front yard of Hilary Stralko’s house.

She said the display is a tribute to her late pit bull mix. The dog was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, about the time she moved into the neighborhood and eventually was put down. So, when she began thinking about what to do the following Christmas she thought about her companion.

“I kinda thought it would be a great way to honor him,” she said.

Stralko also uses her house to raise money for BARCS, Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. She offers hot chocolate and baked treats – for humans and animals –in exchange for donations to the shelter.

Nearby, a house pays homage to Maryland with references to the TV Shows filmed here – Veep and House of Cards–lighted silhouettes of the Utz Girl and Mr. Boh and a glittering can of Natty Boh being emptied into a frosty glass.

The house was special for Jim Epperleng, who came from Harford County to take in the lights.

“The Natty Boh’s my hometown beer; it’s what I grew up with,” said the Canton native. He said the camaraderie of the people also makes the displays special.

“There’s no other city that I know of or any place in the united states that has a block of homes that are dedicated to the Christmas holidays as far as Baltimore,” he said.

Deborah Soong said the displays are a far cry from what you’d see in her native California. “We never have this thing where people kind of coordinate on such a grand scale,” Soong said, “To have an entire street dedicate so much to a holiday, it’s really special.”

Story originally posted at news.wypr.org on Christmas Eve 2013 with accompanying audio broadcast over WYPR on the same date.

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