Ottawa

Stittsville family goes full Griswold for the holidays

With 2,500 old school lights and an 80s' station wagon parked out front, the Turcottes' home is straight out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

With 2,500 lights and an '80s station wagon out front, there's no mistaking the Turcottes' inspiration

This scene in front of the Turcotte family home in Stittsville is right out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. And while Shawn Turcotte managed to keep the station wagon on the road, he did blow a couple fuses getting those lights up. (Shawn Turcotte)

We're serious, Clark: A family in Stittsville is going full Griswold for the holidays, and it's a full-blown, four-alarm celebration of one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.

Fans of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation will immediately recognize the over-the-top decorations made famous by the fictional Griswold family. The holiday classic starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie was released 31 years ago.

Fast forward to 2020, and the Turcotte family is recreating the movie's look and feel with the help of 2,500 multicoloured lights — the fun, old-fashioned kind.

"We actually went [for] the old-fashioned glass incandescent lights," said Shawn Turcotte, vice-president of construction for Mattamy Homes. "So it's really lit up the neighborhood." 

And like the famous scene from the 1989 movie, the electrical load proved too much, at first. 

The idea was Kennedy Turcotte's, left, but mom Chantelle, centre, and brother Hudson, right, were happy to play along. Hudson might even get to keep the 1980 Chevy Caprice. (Shawn Turcotte)

"We had a few breakers pop. We had to [move] our extension cords to different outlets in the house to make sure we didn't blow the breaker panel," said Turcotte. 

The Turcottes are known for going all out with festive lights and decorations, but after last year's display, daughter Kennedy, 13, challenged the family to up their game in 2020. 

"'Dad, if we do this, we're all in,'" was the pitch, Turcotte told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "So we're all in."

While they've been planning the caper since last Christmas, the COVID-19 pandemic only made them want to go bigger, for themselves and the whole neighbourhood. That meant doing their research — Turcotte said they watched the movie 10 times in preparation — and finding the perfect prop: the Griswold family station wagon.

The Turcotte home is covered with 2,500 lights, and not the new-fangled LED kind, either. The fun, old-fashioned kind. (Shawn Turcotte)

In the movie, the family heads out to cut down a Christmas tree, but the hapless Clark forgets to bring along a saw. The scene ends with a shot of an enormous tree, complete with root ball, lashed to the top of the wood-panelled wagon. 

"It's not the exact car from the movie, but it's very close. It's a 1980 Chevrolet Caprice station wagon," said Turcottte, who spent a year searching for just the right ride, and bought it on Kijiji from the original owner in Toronto.

Last weekend, the family even drove the car to get their own Christmas tree at a local farm. 

"We decided to go through the McDonald's drive-thru with the car, and the tree," said Turcotte. "We got a lot of attention." 

Raising money for food bank

The Turcottes are hoping to tap into the interest in their Griswold-style scene at 18 Cypress Gardens to raise money for the Stittsville Food Bank, which has 1,000 more clients now than this time last year, according to Turcotte. Gawkers will be encouraged to donate directly from their cell phones. 

"Show up, enjoy the decorations, take some pictures," urged Turcotte. And then consider scanning a QR code that will link to the food bank website. 

And what's going to happen to the vintage station wagon once Christmas is over?

"I've got a 16-year-old son who's very interested in it. His buddies think it's the coolest thing in the world," said Turcotte. "So we may let him cruise around with it after Christmas."

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