On a dirt road about four miles northwest of Albany, Mike Bueckers’ home is located in a wooded area – a little parcel of trees surrounded by vast, bare fields.

In the daytime, the property looks like any other rural home but when it gets dark and the lights turn on, Bueckers’ property is transformed into an incandescent place of beauty and awe. A string of lights on both sides of the driveway guide whoever drives through while trees alongside are set aglow with their own set of lights. Homemade lanterns glow brightly in a few of the trees while the lights on the house change colors to Christmas music.

Farther down the driveway, five wire trees facing Albany shine brightly. Among the lights and holiday decorations, these trees are the centerpiece in the display and they hold a special place in Bueckers’ heart. Each tree serves as a memorial for five family members of Bueckers who have passed away. 

“This is the third year with the lights,” Bueckers said. “It started because of my grandma who lived in town [Albany]. Years prior, my uncle would always take her down to the cities to see holiday lights.”

As she got older, Bueckers’ grandmother, Armella Bueckers, was losing her mobility and could no longer handle long drives to the cities to see the lights.

“It was harder for her to get out of the house, so I started putting lights up in the trees here as high as I could, hoping that she would be able to see the place here from town,” Bueckers said.

Unfortunately, Armella lived on the far side of town and was unable to see the lights from her home. However, she was able to make one visit out to her grandson’s house the first year he had the lights up to see them before her passing in November 2017.

“She was a big part of my life,” Bueckers said. “I think about her a lot.”

Armella cared for her grandchildren fervently whenever they were in her care.

“She was always doing the grandma thing - cooking, making sure we were up for school…,” Bueckers said. “She took care of us a lot when my dad was at work.”

In honor of her, Bueckers built and mounted a 20-foot tree lit up with colorful lights and topped with an angel.

About a month and a half after Armella’s passing, Bueckers’ second cousin passed away unexpectedly at 22 years old. In the following spring, Bueckers’ aunt, Juliann Rademacher, passed away suddenly from an aneurism.

“Within six months, I had three family members who died,” Bueckers said.

In honor of his aunt and cousin, in addition to two other cousins, ages 2 and 16, who have passed years earlier in Bueckers’ life, he placed four more trees next to his grandma’s tree.

“It helps me remember them,” he said. “When those trees are up, I know they’re here with us.”

It is hard work setting up the display, but Bueckers loves the lights and knows others do as well. He invited friends and family out to see them, and by word of mouth and through social media, the number of cars that drive through has significantly increased year after year.

“The first year, I think I had about 100 cars drive through here and the next, it was over 300,” he said. “It just gives a chance for people around here who can’t make long drives, like my grandma, to see lights and enjoy a display closer to home.”

Bueckers begins putting the lights up in October, with the goal of turning them on as soon as Thanksgiving Day.

Bueckers’ display has grown year after year. The first year, he had about 5,000 lights, the second year, 12,000 and the third, 27,000. Bueckers keeps a free-will donation box at the end of his driveway during the holiday season. The donations are used for buying more lights and holiday displays.

“I already have 10,000 more lights for next year,” he said. “I’m hoping to get bigger each year.”

Maintaining and replacing burnt-out light bulbs is an everyday chore for Bueckers, but seeing the joy the display brings to people makes all the work worth it.

“People really like it and it’s great to share,” he said. “Grandma would have loved it. I was always trying to get the lights high enough so grandma could see them. She can see them now.”

Although the holiday season is over, Bueckers will have the lights on every night until Sunday, Jan. 15 for those who would like to drive through and see them. His address is 36252 245th Ave., Albany, MN 56307.