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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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In Holiday Guide

Candy Cane Lane in West Allis is now in its 27th year.

In Holiday Guide

The tradition began when a neighborhood boy was diagnosed with cancer.

In Holiday Guide

More than 300 homes typically participate in the holiday lights show.

Candy Cane Lane decks the halls

These days, the world can sometimes seem pretty cynical about Christmas. Rampant commercialization, the bitter "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" debate and the tangled web of ideology behind it – the list of humbugs goes on and on.

But, the spirit of Christmas cheer and holiday giving is alive and well in a small, close-knit neighborhood in West Allis, known for a month out of each year as Candy Cane Lane.

Now in its 27th year, Candy Cane Lane was born when a local resident, Jeremy Kline, was diagnosed at a young age with brain cancer. His neighbors rallied behind him to collect donations for the MACC Fund from passers-by coming to see the Christmas decorations.

"The next year they started talking to the neighbors, saying, 'Let's decorate. Let's start inviting people,'" said MACC Fund Development Officer Colleen Moran.

Now almost 30 years and $1.6 million later, Candy Cane Lane is a Milwaukee-area holiday tradition that features almost 300 decked-out homes. Running east and west from 92nd to 96th Streets and north and south from Oklahoma Avenue to Montana Street, the neighborhood raises around $100,000 annually for the MACC Fund at the official collection point on the corner of 95th and Manitoba Streets.

Local resident Ken Perkl is especially proud of the $103,000 raised last year. As a member of the seven-person committee who took over the running of Candy Cane Lane a few years ago from longtime coordinator Ron Ziolecki, Perkl puts in countless hours every Christmas season manning the collection point and handing out candy to spectators.

He is assisted by his fellow committee members, including volunteer coordinator Joy Geyer, local resident Dan Mass and Mass' grandmother, Pat Wolfe, at whose house the committee meets and who has lived in the neighborhood since the first days of Candy Cane Lane.

In addition to the hours spent standing in the cold collecting money and spreading Christmas cheer, Perkl says he spends anywhere from six to seven hours on his elaborate decorations, which include a tableau of reindeer taking flight and a railroad crossing.

So what's the payoff for all this hard work? When asked, Perkl put a hand to his heart.

"In the heart," he said. "Yeah, you know. We take a lot of pride in the neighborhood. It's like, 'Wow, look at all this joy we're bringing to people from everywhere.' People come from all over the Midwest to hear about Candy Cane Lane. I take pride in that, that we can do this for a good cause."

Because for this surprisingly well-organized (if small) local organization, raising money for a good cause is the goal. But, a bonus is that for them, it has become an important holiday tradition.

"I just love doing it," Perkl said. "I look forward to it. I love the whole 11 months (before) waiting for this month to come. I think most of the neighbors do."

Candy Cane Lane typically opens the day after Thanksgiving, and this year it runs from Friday, Nov. 23 to Wednesday, Dec. 26. Hours of operation are Monday-Thursday, 6-9 p.m.; Friday, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, 5-10 p.m. and Sunday, 5-9 p.m.

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ifyousayso | Nov. 29, 2012 at 5:29 p.m. (report)

Looking forward to it! What a great tradition.

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High_Life_Man | Nov. 28, 2012 at 1:50 p.m. (report)

Ken is a great guy with a heart of gold. He's so proud of the money and smiles they raise. Keep up the good work!

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