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Community helps suburban Chicago family rebound after fire destroyed holiday decorations

Suburban Chicago man rebuilds holiday display after devastating fire
Suburban Chicago man rebuilds holiday display after devastating fire 02:35

CHICAGO RIDGE, Ill. (CBS) -- Back in May, CBS 2 was first to bring you the story of a devastating fire that threatened to put a holiday tradition in the southwest suburbs on hold.

A garage full of decorations for a well-known display was completely lost.

But with help from the community, and the determination to keep the tradition alive, the Chicago Ridge family behind the display is rebounding just in time for Christmas.

The last time we saw Bob Kasper, he was nursing some serious holiday heartache. It was back in May, when a fast-moving fire that started in his neighbor's home and spread to his garage - which housed a number of his one-of-a-kind homemade holiday installations.

The fire destroyed nearly everything.

Kasper's award-winning display along Lyman Avenue, which for three decades has attracted crowds from across Cook County - getting news coverage and even being featured in a book - was at risk of not being mounted at all this year.

"Everybody would come over and say, 'Nobody has this stuff, because you make it yourself,'" Kasper said in May.

Shoot to six months later, and Kasper is now singing a different tune.

"You have something - a disaster like this happen, and then you meet so many great people," Kasper said Thursday. "It's fantastic."

Those great people were members of the Chicago Ridge community. They were mostly just strangers who stepped up - not wanting to part with the longstanding tradition.

They donated everything from cash to decorations to get Kasper back on his feet.

"You have people come up and said, 'You know, my parents brought me here - and now I'm bringing my kids here,'" Kasper said.

Since mid-September, Kasper been hard at work. He has been refurbishing old installations and building new ones – spending an average 10 hours a day.

By the end of November, his new winter wonderland was nearly completed - bigger and better than before.

Kasper said what he has on display now is just a drop in the bucket. When he is officially done, roughly 40,000 lights will be lighting up the block.

"I got to keep doing this, you know," Kasper said. "My wife asked me a few times, 'When are you going to quit?' 'When I can't do it anymore.'"

Kasper is now running up against the clock. The big reveal is set to happen on Friday, Dec. 1.

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