Hazlet House Dazzles in TV Christmas Lights Contest

In an episode which aired Dec. 2, Taniya Nayak, judge of ABC’s Great Christmas Light Fight, gets a squeeze from an inflatable fuzzy bear at the Rose family’s extravagant Christmas display. Images from ABC

Did you catch the Johnny Rose and family from Hazlet on ABC’s Great Christmas Light Fight on Monday night? Amazing house, right? And does that man look like Santa Claus or what!

In an episode filmed last year but kept under wraps until this Dec. 2 airing, Rose told how he and a few family members transform a common split level at 3 Bauer Lane into Johnny’s Hazlet Holiday Light Extravaganza every year. Crowds make the pilgrimage on foot to their tiny street off South Laurel Avenue to take it in.

“Christmas is wired in my brain,” Rose cheerfully admits. All year round, he is scheming ideas for Christmas lights.

“I’m so crazy about Christmas that I bought extra land that was for sale, next door,” Rose explained, sitting in his Santa suit in front of the fireplace. “The wife was like arguing with me, ‘You’re not buying that!’ I went out and bought it. The wife hates me and now I’m happy,” he chuckled merrily. Naughty Santa.

In the show, Rose described how his passion for decorating with Christmas lights has grown over 50 years. We see him hastily prepping the display in his picket-fenced yard, in work clothes and a stocking cap, erecting an archway frame, stringing evergreen garlands on candy cane posts, untangling lights and barking orders to his small crew.

When Taniya Nayak, the show’s gleeful host arrives in Hazlet by limo to judge their house, she is greeted by a crowd of youngsters. She leads a countdown. When she “detonates the dynamite” to light up the sky by pressing down on what looks like a bike tire pump in a gift box with stick-on bows, the house lights up and the crowd roars in delight. We see a drone shot of the large property bejeweled in pleasing purple, pink and teal light with illuminated tunnels, twinkling trees, winding lit paths, glowing blow-up characters and pockets to explore.

Judge Nayak strolls through the wonderland, pausing to gush over the the massive fuzzy inflatable bear that gives hugs – something never before seen by this connoisseur of Christmas displays. She heaped praise on Johnny’s brother, Billy, wearing the green elf outfit, for his artfully executed handmade gingerbread cutouts.

Their tour ends in a quiet area, near an illuminated praying angel in white.

In a heartbreaking moment that takes the viewer by surprise, Johnny and wife Diane tell about their dear daughter who was diagnosed with cancer at 13, and passed away just a few months afterwards. It’s an incredibly sad moment, and everyone’s eyes fill with tears.

“Very hard to talk about it,” said Johnny Rose, somberly.

“This represents her,” said Diane, pointing to the angel. “I just never want anyone to forget her. Her name is Donna, and she loved Christmas. She loved little children. And when we come out here we feel like she is with us, all the time.”

In the end, somehow the Rose family did not win the TV show competition or the $50,000 prize. Go figure.

But their dedication to creating and sharing their winter wonderland has brought so much happiness to many, and continues to honor the spirit of their little angel.

They win.

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