By Anna Gustafson
It is the day before Christmas Eve and Bayside resident Robert Sibrizzi is hunched over his computer looking at a digital representation of the 70,000 lights and hundreds of holiday decorations — including 10 mini Christmas trees and a glowing peace sign to honor the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death — in his yard.
From his chair overlooking the front of his home at 33-24 205th St. in Bayside, he can control via computer what lights will turn on when he plays different songs, including “Step Into Christmas” by Elton John, “Imagine” by John Lennon, and a rendition of “Christmas Melody” that Sibrizzi contributed to while he was a student at the Juilliard School. As a speaker broadcasts the tunes into the neighborhood, the multicolored lights will flicker, making the home into a place that residents from the neighborhood, throughout Queens — and even other states — will come to see.
“I’ve always loved decorating,” said Sibrizzi, who plays the piano part time on Broadway. “I’m like a little kid when it comes to this, I can’t wait to start decorating for Christmas. I already have plans for next year.”
The home of Sibrizzi; his husband Joseph Degaetano, vice president of Queens County Savings Bank; and their 5-year-old daughter Gina Sibrizzi Degaetano morphs into a riot of Christmas paraphernalia beginning in October and lasting through the winter. There is everything from elves Sibrizzi’s grandparents made in 1954 to Three Stooges dolls in Santa caps and numerous wooden cut-outs of “Family Guy” and “Simpsons” characters adorned with holiday hats and clothes that make an annual appearance in the front and back yards. Ten small Christmas trees are lined up across the front yard and a prominently displayed peace sign at the front of the house is lit in honor of the 30th death of Lennon.
While Sibrizzi enjoys music by Lennon and the Beatles, they do not come close to touching his love for Elton John. Sibrizzi, who sports a tattoo of the British musician on his arm, has numerous ornaments of Elton John and spelled out “Step Into Christmas,” the Elton John song, in lights on the front yard.
Christmas music emanates from a speaker until 10 p.m., after which residents can then tune into 107.3 to hear the sound track Sibrizzi continues to play that includes traditional favorites like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.” The back and front yards are covered with 70,000 lights and 650 pieces of decoration, including a 6-foot-tall Grinch, a herd of reindeer, a nativity scene, and numerous angels, Mrs. Clauses and Santas. Red tinsel covers the garage’s inside walls and cotton simulates snow on the garage floor. In the garage, there is screen where a DVD of a burning Yule log played. Numerous caroler dolls and Santas line the garage.
“My daughter is 5 years old now, so she’s really getting into this,” said Sibrizzi, whose electric bill during the holiday season totals about $1,200 a month. “She loves the inside of the garage.”
Though Sibrizzi is fond of decorating, he is not just doing it for his own benefit. Over the years, individuals have come to learn he collects money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Manhattan and will bring it generous donations.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.