For decades, a shimmering route has stood at the top of a hill on Carrs Lane, sharing the true meaning of Christmas with visitors of all ages.

For decades, a shimmering route has stood at the top of a hill on Carrs Lane, sharing the true meaning of Christmas with visitors of all ages.

John Freiling was in the front yard after dusk Thursday, Nov. 30, wearing a special hat equipped with LED spotlights and setting up displays that include an illuminated camel, angels, a Nativity scene, colorful blow-mold illuminated displays and endless glowing candy canes lining the 1/2-mile route. John and his wife, Mary, received help from neighbors, families and friends to get the display incorporating about 2 million lights to assemble the expansive display, after John broke his hip on Jan. 30. The long road to recovery was complete in the middle of October for John — who is not allowed to climb ladders due to the surgery. But that didn't stop the Freilings and scores of volunteers from preparing Candy Cane Lighted Lane for the public beginning Saturday, Dec. 2, at 57343 Carrs Lane.

Freiling said an entire family comes out to help, bringing children from the neighborhood along to help with setting up the festive decorations.

“They go wild,” he said with a chuckle. “They do a good job, I'm amazed.”

Freiling remembered that years ago, someone at St. John's Lutheran Church — where he directs the Bell Choir in which his wife performs — mentioned they were traveling to the Freilings' home to see their lights. Mary Freiling said it all began with a lighted Nativity scene across the street. She said each year, her mother, John's parents and sister and other loved ones would bring a sleigh, Santa and other decorations to add to the display.

“It just kept building and building,” she said.

Today, Freiling incorporates computers that make all of the lights dance in time with the music. A decade ago, he was one of the first people using the technology, and he went on to write some of the software for the company manufacturing the equipment. As people pull up to the lane, they see a large glowing sign that directs them to tune their FM radios to 95.5. Thousands of lights pulse, spiral and glow in time along with the story of the birth of Jesus, and traditional Christmas songs like “Carol of the Bells.”

Mary Freiling showed scores of small illuminated shops, ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds and other winter sections of a sprawling village that her husband was preparing to cover a bar inside. In the restored barn, John Freiling picked up an antique wind-up locomotive and sent it down the track with a few turns of a special key. Overhead, a Christmas train chugged along, with steam locomotives sharing an intricate landscape with G-, HO- and N-scale trains — many date back to his childhood years and preceding eras.

For the Freilings, the chance to share Christmas joy each year is rewarding. Mary said they see the OATS bus, vehicles from various nursing homes and church groups and others making their way along the lane. John Freiling said he loves seeing vehicles full of kids screaming excitedly, teens enjoying the display with their stereos booming with music and adults of all ages making the journey.

“They're all loving it,” Mary Freiling said.

The display is free, but the Freilings have a donation box set up to help with electricity costs. John Freiling said donations in 2016 just about covered the $1,600 electrical bill. Candy Cane Lighted Lane is open daily from 5 to 10 p.m. To find out more, visit their Facebook page at or call 573-248-4272.

To find Candy Cane Lighted Lane, head from Hannibal 3/4-mile on Route O, before turning right on Carrs Lane. Travel up the hill until you reach a Y in the road, staying left and continuing up the hill. The family's red barn will be visible at the far end of the lighted display.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at