Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Singing, dancing Santas draw crowds

This year all donations received at the Christmas display will go to help fight against bowel cancer.

Every Christmas Iris Franks (pictured) and her husband Ray decorate their Glen Innes home. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Every Christmas Iris Franks (pictured) and her husband Ray decorate their Glen Innes home. Photo / Sarah Ivey

They all look forward to it. The kids, the parents, the grandparents - they all do. Iris Franks More than 170 Santas decorate Iris and Ray Franks' Glen Innes home, singing dancing and even riding skateboards.

For years people have visited the couple's house to take in the thousands of lights, train sets, helicopters and parachutes.

But the real centrepiece is a collection of 176 Santas which Mrs Franks, 70, puts outside the home on a specially-built platform each night.

"They play music. Some of them I put on the ground ... there's a rock and roll one, there's one that bikes around, a skateboard one I put on for the children," Mrs Franks said.

"The flipping donkey one, now that doesn't flip anymore, that got broken and it just sings ... I put them down on a piece of lino and start them up for people, the ones they want to see."

Mrs Franks said local children were so enthralled by the display many didn't want to leave.

The collection has slowly grown, helped by donations from friends, family and strangers - as well as a fair amount of targeted shopping.

"My youngest sister and I, we used to go out on Boxing Day and sort out the ones we didn't have, and go and fill our trolleys up and bring them home," Mrs Franks recalled.

"My husband would say every night after he'd come home from work - 'oh, come on, show me what you've bought today'," she said.

Each December the display at 97A West Tamaki Rd is grander. This year Placemakers donated material for a new sleigh and reindeer to go up on the deck.

The Franks welcome donations, which are passed on to a charity.

"They all look forward to it. The kids, the parents, the grandparents - they all do," Mrs Franks said.

But this Christmas, with Mr Franks, 71, seriously ill with bowel cancer, friends and family have had to pitch in to ensure the neighbourhood institution continues.

The couple's son, a builder, organised a team to do the initial set-up of lights and other props.

And with Mrs Franks set to spend last night in hospital with her husband, the Santas were entrusted to her sister, daughter and niece.

This year all donations will be given to the Gastrointestinal Cancer Institute of New Zealand.

Nearly 4000 new cases of gastrointestinal cancer - of which bowel cancer is the most common - are diagnosed in New Zealand each year.

Mrs Franks is a breast cancer survivor, and their son-in-law is also seriously ill with cancer.

She said it was important to both of them to keep the show going.

"My husband, he loved it, he really did. And even though he's been so sick this year he really wanted me to do it. Because it's a cause close to our hearts."

- NZ Herald

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