Malta family’s festive yard lights the night and attracts holiday celebrants
By Dianna Troyer
A radiant holiday display in Malta offers comfort and joy—and prompts teasing, too, for Tony and Trina Bernad.
“People laugh and call us the Malta Griswolds,” says Trina, referring to the comic film, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” about a family’s over-the-top lighting display. “But they also send us a lot of texts saying, ‘We love it.’”
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day for more than a decade, the Bernads have been delighting passersby with their dazzling decor in their yard on First Street next to the park.
At the heart of their display is the word “joy” in tall letters, flanked by an inflatable snowman and Santa—each 12 feet tall and waving to visitors.
“We’re really happy our community enjoys it,” Trina says. “It’s a gift to ourselves and to others and a way to spread some joy during the holidays.”
A resident deputy for the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office, Tony says his job keeps him in touch with residents throughout the area. “People tell me they make a point of driving by our place with their kids during the holidays to stop and take photos,” he says.
The Bernads’ holiday lighting extravaganza has steadily expanded since 2009, when Tony was transferred from Burley to Malta.
“When we lived in Burley, we had a small yard and were limited to how much we could put up,” Trina says. “With our big yard here, we’ve been able to add a few things
every year. Our kids, Ethan and Madlyn, were in elementary school when we moved here and were so excited about Christmas and decorating.”
As a family, the Bernads often searched for yule-time treasures at yard sales or during after-Christmas sales at stores. Tony built more shelves in their storage sheds to accommodate all of the decor.
One of their most cherished outdoor decorations has been in the family for decades.
“My grandpa gave us his vintage metal and plastic scene of Santa with his sleigh and reindeer,” Trina says. “It’s sentimental to us.”
Before decorating their yard for Christmas, the Bernads must take down their elaborate Halloween display.
“We get a lot of joy out of doing that, too, for the community,” Trina says. “It’s fun having kids walk by slowly, looking at everything and talking. We also hear their fun comments as they drive by and have their car windows rolled down.”
In November, the Bernads began putting up their Christmas display—a time-consuming but cheerful chore. It takes several days, but while they work, Tony says they remind themselves of the appreciative comments they will hear when done.
Trina, who is a registered nurse and care manager at Cassia Regional Hospital in Burley, says she thinks of how much she enjoys seeing the lights when she comes home from work in the dark.
“They really cheer me up,” she says. “We keep white lights on our house up year-round, too, along with an LED flag on our shed.”
Although now grown up, Ethan and Madlyn have never outgrown their appreciation for the family’s holiday tradition.
“It has its ups and downs,” says Ethan, a sophomore at Idaho State University who is considering a career in sports medicine or physical therapy.
“Putting up the decorations is a lot of work, and sometimes they don’t work at all,” he says, laughing. “But in the end, it brings me and my family joy to be able to spread Christmas cheer to the whole town when it’s all finally up. I’ve always loved Christmas.”
Madlyn, a senior at Raft River High School, says her favorite Christmas decorations are those she has had since childhood.
“They last longer and typically have less maintenance issues,” she says. “Every year, seeing all the different pieces come together—that’s what I look forward to most of all. Our small town has loved seeing the setup, and it’s exciting to share this holiday joy with others.”
The siblings say they will always come home to help decorate for the holidays.
After setting up their annual extravaganza, the Bernads officially launch their holiday season after they finish eating Thanksgiving dinner.
“That’s when we turn the lights on,” Trina says.
After celebrating New Year’s Day, the Bernads begin the task of tucking away the decorations for the next year.
“Then it’s time to keep an eye out for Christmas sales,” Trina says. “Who knows what we’ll find to add on to what we already have.”