In Southeast Alaska the holiday spirit is dieselpowered
Nancy Bean’s home in Kake. Her holiday lights display is powered by diesel. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Bean.)Diesel is running about $2.71 per gallon in Southeast Alaska, but in places that depend on diesel for electricity, there are still households that won’t let the cost dampen the holiday spirit.Listen NowFor Nancy Bean, a Kake resident, it started off small — with a couple of light-up reindeer. But every year, she’s added something new.“We have lights everywhere,” Bean said with a laugh. “Some houses have a little bit and some houses have a lot. I have more than a lot.”Outside, Bean’s yard has a decorative train, two angels with trumpets, a waving Santa, strings and strings of multicolored lights and more.“One thing we bought, and I don’t think we’ll do this again, is we bought a 10-foot Christmas tree. A blowup. And it is beautiful when the wind’s not blowing,” Bean said.Kake is a small community of about 600 people. And Bean estimated there are nearly 20 homes decked out for the holidays.What’s powering those festive displays is diesel, which can be expensive. Bean qualifies for power cost equalization, a state funded program that helps lower electric rates in remote places. Still, she said on average, the lights add up to an extra $200 on her electric bill.Frank Willis said, so far, it’s cost him about $20 extra dollars on his electric bill to keep the lights up. (Photo courtesy of Frank Willis)North of Kake, in Angoon, Frank Willis said his is one of only three or four houses decorated for the holidays. And his display was hard fought.“The first one we put up the dogs chewed through it,” Willis said.Angoon is another village with less than 500 people. And like Kake, it also runs off diesel.“Putting up Christmas lights used to be a big thing around here. And it’s just kind of, like, going downhill the past few years,” Willis said. “[I’m] just hoping to get everyone back in the spirit.”Nancy Bean said that’s what motivates her. When pressed, she’s modest about having a house that looks like a snow globe, one of the most decorated in Kake. She said both adults and children stop to admire the twinkling lights and the waving Santa.There’s this one girl, she said:“Her mother passed away, and she’s staying with her uncle. And he brings her up every single night, and he lets her run around in the yard. I can sit in my living room, and I can hear her laugh,” Bean said. “And that’s what it’s all about.”When asked if she’ll buy more holiday displays next year, Bean answered “yes” — without hesitation. She said it’s not just the decorations that light up, it’s the faces of the people, too.