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Stafford mother and several of her house-decorating children win this year's Grand Holiday Display competition.
Ralph and Susan Cooper's yard is filled with an assortment of lights. Their daughters, Angela Poteet and Bobbi Kleckner, draw and paint the cutouts in their yard.
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By ROB HEDELT
THE CHRISTMAS DISPLAYS of Coop- erville light up the night and fill a quarter-mile with hundreds of wooden cutouts, holiday figures and strings of lights.
Cooperville is the name used by this year's Grand Holiday Display winners, Jeanette Cooper and four of her light-loving children whose homes surround her on Ramoth Church Road in Stafford County.
And while Cooper and her children can't imagine a Christmas when they wouldn't display the decorations that fill several huge storage sheds, they all fondly remember the way the love of decorating began.
"My dad [Chester Cooper] got us all started when we were young," said Ralph Cooper. "We'd get a tree, put it out in the yard and put lights on it. All the kids helped."
All the kids, in the Cooper family meant four boys and three girls, who grew up on a rolling piece of land a few miles west of U.S. 1.
"For us, Christmas meant putting lights on that tree out in the yard, setting out a few angels and then waiting for the fire truck with Santa aboard to visit from the Mountain View Fire Department," said Ralph Cooper, whose wife, Susan, helps with the decorating effort.
Jeanette said her husband started the tradition to give the children something to look forward to each Christmas.
Through the years, the decorating expanded to the point where Ralph has a building nearly 30 feet long to hold his spotlights and Christmas cutouts.
Most of the latter are drawn and painted by daughters Angela Poteet and Bobbi Kleckner, who each year find new Disney or Christmas figures to sketch freehand and then paint.
Randy and Janet Cooper have their own yard-filling display on the other side of Ralph's house.
Rita Farrar and James and Carol Armstrong fill out the Cooperville display with their own decorations.
Jeanette, a former safety supervisor at Quantico and then Fort Belvoir, said the decorating started not long after she and Chester settled there in 1947, then grew as children built their own houses.