This week, visitors to the Ungers' dazzling wonderland can read a sign posted to a gate with this message:
"We are posting this sign to let all of you know that this will be the last year for a major Christmas display. Due to increased electricity costs and the time it takes to put the display up, we made the decision that this, our 35th year, would be the last."
You can only go to the poorhouse once
The process of downsizing the display actually began last year after a Smart meter was installed by DTE and the family began noticing a spike in their electric bills.
Plugs had to be pulled on inflatable displays, which were previously left on all day, in an effort to be more efficient.
DTE Spokesman John Austerberry had an explanation last December for the increase in the family's bill.
"Looking back over the past two years, there is no discernible difference in usage since the AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) was installed," Austerberry said. He noted, however, the family did receive a lot of estimated bills that were lower than the actual usage. That means subsequent bills needed to be higher to make up the difference once an actual reading was performed.
This year, the higher bills to keep the yard aglow influenced the family's decision to dim the lights in 2014.
“None if any are LEDs,” Ethlyn Unger told WXYZ. “For December (the electric bill) could be anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500."
You can only go to the poorhouse once, she added.
Of chorus, the choir may go on
The display grew every year, plateauing in recent years. It takes over a month to pull out everything stored in their garage and a tent.
Over the years that original choir of two has grown to several dozen - one for each of the Ungers' children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
"We may still light the choir to rejoice the Christmas season," reads the sign on the gate.
In the meantime, the family is encouraging visitors to leave their memories, pictures and comments in a green tub beneath the sign.
Ethlyn Unger (also known as Mrs. Claus) plans to make a memory album for Mr. Claus.
"He will so miss the lights."
If you go
- Where: 1713 N. Washington Ave.
- When: The lights are turned on daily from 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m. through Dec 31.
- Leave a note: There is a green bucket near the main gate to leave photographs and notes.