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Caregivers bring North Pole magic to Rapid City

A house surrounded by Christmas lights and figures
Denny and his family have been decorating for the holidays for several years, but photos simply don’t do justice to the display.

At this time of year, people start looking for a little holiday cheer. Luckily, you don’t have to travel to the North Pole to find it. Just go to Denny’s house.

Denny Leibel, Pharmacy Business Analyst, and his family have a tradition of setting up a display of Christmas lights in their yard that has evolved into something incredibly fun. “We’ve probably been setting up a small display for 12 or 14 years,” he says. “But four years ago is when I decided to make it explode.”

And explode it did. Denny’s entire roof is covered with lights that flash in time with music, there are multiple figures of various sizes glowing across his property and cutouts where children — and plenty of adults — can pose as jolly elves. What started as a playful decorating competition between neighbors has grown into something, well, magical. “I started seeing what the display meant to other people. Now it’s all about the Christmas spirit,” says Denny.

The cherry on top of this enthusiastic display of holiday spirit is the regular visits from Santa Claus. Every Friday and Saturday night, Dana Darger, Director of Pharmacy, puts on his Santa suit and sits in front of Denny’s house, to the delight of children, parents and just about everyone. “It’s amazing when you see these kids light up,” says Dana. “Every night there’s at least one kid who asks if they can pull my beard, which is the litmus test for Santa. And when they pull the beard and it doesn’t come loose, you can see they’re like, ‘oh my gosh, this is Santa!’”

Dana takes his role seriously — or as seriously as one can take being a jolly old elf. He explains, “When you’re sitting in that chair, you can’t play Santa. You truly have to be Santa. You have to give each child the hope that they can have what they truly want for Christmas, but of course I can’t make any promises.”

Dana may wear the red suit, but both he and Denny embody the spirit of Santa Claus, striving to bring a little bit of hope, joy and cheer to the people around them.

“You know, people have asked me if I take donations, and I always say ‘no.’ I don’t want anyone’s money,” Denny says. “I want their smiles. I want them to make memories. People tell me that their new family tradition is coming to my house to see Santa Claus. And if you see how the kids react to Santa, it makes all the work we put into it worthwhile.”

You can pass by Denny’s house and check out his light display any night this holiday season, at 4311 Paddock Court in Rapid City. Santa will be in attendance on Friday and Saturday nights, 6 – 8 p.m. until Christmas.

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