In addition to a deep love of the holidays, Heather Schluckbier of Schaumburg says there's probably one other feature common to anyone who's ever won a holiday house decorating contest -- craziness.
Schluckbier laughs that a little insanity is likely needed for anyone to want to put more than 35,000 Christmas lights on their house and coordinate them to music.
But that kind of single-minded determination made Schluckbier the readers' choice winner of the Daily Herald's 2013 Holiday Lights contest.
"It hasn't hurt me that my husband's an electrical engineer," she added, giving due credit to her spouse, Gary.
But it's Heather who leads the charge each year, living out a love of Christmas passed down by her parents while growing up in Michigan.
Christmas visits back to her parents' house had to end as the Schluckbiers began having children of their own -- 14, 12 and twins who are 8. The opportunity to stay home in Schaumburg led to a new family tradition that has grown every year.
One of the biggest additions -- synchronizing the lights to music -- began six years ago. Visitors to 503 Dartmouth Lane can tune their car radios to 102.1 FM and hear the five different songs the lights are in sync with.
All the coordinated flashing makes the display far from subdued, but the aim is to be traditional rather than comedic or garish, Schluckbier said.
As for the number of lights, 35,000 is only when she stopped counting. This year she got a new ladder that allowed her to go higher than ever with the tree in front of her house.
While all the lights on the house were once white, the Schluckbiers added blue some years ago.
Despite her obvious love for the season, Heather is old-fashioned when it comes to the length of Christmastime. Though the display takes weeks to set up and days to take down, the lights are on only from the Sunday after Thanksgiving through New Year's Day.
Close with all of her neighbors, Schluckbier said there's an easy understanding that as soon as any think the holiday lights are all getting too much, she'll stop.
One of Schluckbier's motivations has been inclusion on the Schaumburg Park District's holiday house decorating tour.
Though winning contests isn't what drivers her, she's also placed first in the arrangement category of the park district competition.
For winning the Daily Herald contest, which was co-sponsored by Wintrust Community Banks, the Schluckbiers won a Toro Power Clear 621 QZE snowblower valued at $830.
It's the perfect prize for a family whose snowblower broke last year, Heather said.
Among the readers who voted online from Dec. 12 to 16, Linda Bothen of Bloomingdale was the random winner of a Toro Power Clear 418 ZE snowblower valued at $400.