Matt FioRito and his family enjoy providing holiday warmth to the scores visiting their spectacular lights display at their Mount Prospect house.
How much the display means to those who view it was confirmed to FioRito when word got out a few years ago that he planned to cut back and just decorate his bushes. He was approached by an older man living a couple of blocks from his home at 111 S. I Oka Ave.
"He told me his children have moved away but had always enjoyed our lights," FioRito said. "They come back every Christmas and it has become one of their Christmas traditions, to bring their kids and grandkids by the house on Christmas Eve to see the display. They like to show the kids the Santa in the window unpacking presents. He thanked me."
So FioRito and his family kept going. And this year their reward is being named winner of the 2017 Daily Herald Holiday Lights Contest.
Of roughly 17,000 votes cast online, the FioRitos received 8,539.
FioRito, 48, said he started with indoor holiday displays when he was a child and progressed to outdoor light displays when he bought his first house in 1992.
He recalled how he was particularly inspired to install the decorations when his now 19-year-old daughter, Noel, was a little girl.
"I have always loved the Christmas season," FioRito said.
"As a kid, I always remember loving looking at all the lights and decorations. I remember how it made me feel as a kid and I wanted to give some of those feelings back to the community and young children."
Rachna FioRito, 44, said she's grown to enjoy the lights extravaganza. She pitches in to help install the display, but she credited her husband and two children still at home -- 12-year-old Gio and Maya, 8 -- for handling most of the work.
Matt FioRito estimated it takes 40 hours to get the display up and running. That includes removing the decorations from storage, testing the lights and assembling it all.
After all these years, the FioRito family hasn't counted the number of strands or lights decorating their house.
They have, however, tracked their December electric bills.
"Since I changed most everything to LED lights, it really isn't bad," FioRito said. "Maybe $100 to $150 more. But back when we used incandescent lights and our parkway tree was full size, it would increase by $250 to $300 per month."