There’s an elaborate holiday lights display in Barrington that’s been drawing crowds at Christmastime for the past 12 years. But there’s a love story behind these lights that I never knew until I knocked on the front door.
Vern Hagenbring and his family built the home at 100 Old Oak Road in Barrington back in 1967, when he owned and managed Hagenbring’s department store in downtown Arlington Heights.
For years, Vern dressed up as Santa Claus at Hagenbring’s department store, which was a hot spot for purchasing holiday decorations back in the ’50’s.
But the Hagenbrings eventually sold the store property and Vern retired 12 years ago, at about the same time that his wife, Trudy, fell ill with Alzheimer’s Disease. The Santa resemblance is striking, isn’t it?
Building the holiday lights display by hand was one of Vern’s favorite things to do with Trudy during the last years of her life. When Trudy got sick and was in a wheelchair, she would watch Vern build the Christmas collection out in their garage. It all started with a 30-foot long Santa train built out of PVC pipe and lights.
The collection grew to about 15 pieces which you’ll find on display in the Hagenbring’s yard. Today, there’s an ice skating rink, elf house, cookie factory, candy factory, flight school, church and Rudolph leading Santa’s sleigh and reindeer.
Vern even created Santa’s North Pole Mailing Station, including two full-sized mailboxes, where he collects children’s letters to Santa each year, which are personally answered on special stationery in time for Christmas.
Trudy passed away about four years ago and Vern recently had a stroke, but even at 93 years old, he says he wouldn’t miss putting up the Hagenbring display each year because it brings such joy to others and reminds him of Trudy. His children and grandchildren help him set everything up at Thanksgiving each year and he lights the display from 5 until 10PM each night, through January 10th. You’ll find the Hagenbring’s house at 100 Old Oak Road in Barrington’s Oaksbury neighborhood. To get there, just take Rte. 59 North, go right on 22, take your first left on Honey Lake Road and your second right on Old Oak. Be sure to roll down your windows to hear the music that plays for the ballerinas on the skating rink.