Cape Town – A love for his ill mother motivated Henk Grootendorst, 52, to start decorating his home in Lovemore Heights, Port Elizabeth, in 2014.
This year – three years later – Henk’s house won the inaugural title of ‘South Africa’s best decorated holiday home’.
He beat out the 13 other entries from across South Africa to receive the most votes from News24 readers.
“It’s all a bit overwhelming, my house is not even the best decorated,” an ecstatic Henk tells News24 over the phone.
“I can think of several other homes – even here in this city – who deserves to be voted South Africa’s best.”
Together with his wife Lila, Henk, a baker, has worked on his home in Melsetter Road since October – decorating it with lights.
“After working an entire day in the bakery I’d come home to work on the Christmas lights – sometimes working as late as 11(pm),” Henk explains.
‘Favourite moment of my year’
And his mother? Henk says today she stares out of the window to see the public come view the home.
She survived the cancer operation Henk first commemorated with the lights in 2014.
“Her laugh – to see her enjoying it – it makes the sacrifices worth it.”
— James de Villiers (@pejames) December 31, 2017
While Henk focused his attention on the lighting display, his wife Lila spent hours sewing the elf suits of the estimated 200 children who took part in a parade on December 2.
The 1km-long parade with a brass band, dancers and the Eastern Province junior children’s choir ended at Henk’s home where roughly 5 000 people gathered to see the lights being switched on.
The parade towards the Grootendorst’s home in Lovemore Heights, Port Elizabeth. (Supplied)
“It all really started organically,” Lila explains. “No invites, no nothing – just people getting involved through word of mouth.”
The event also drew the attention of Port Elizabeth Mayor Athol Trollip, who opened the parade.
The estimated 5 000 people who gathered in front of the Grootendorst home on December 2. (Supplied)
“It was really amazing – it was the favourite moment of my year – to see the thousands attending, [and] enjoying,” Lila says.
She says they refused to receive donations or gifts at the home, and handed out thousands of cupcakes and cool drinks every night the lights were switched on.
“There’s so much sadness in the world and [with] this house, [we] just want to bring some hope – a light in the darkness,” Lila says.
“It’s not about the money. We also had people come to say they want to put up stalls and even a beer tent and we said no – that’s not what we’re about; that’s not what the Christmas spirit is about.”
When asked how much the entire project costs Henk, Lila could be heard saying on the other side of the line: “it’s not about the money – don’t talk about the money”.
The Grootendorst’s lighting display in Melsetter Road in Lovemore Heights, Port Elizabeth. (Supplied)
Henk explains: “But it really isn’t that much. I have collected the lights over several years and the LED lights themselves don’t use that much electricity. We switch off the lights in our home during this time which balances things out.”
Henk – who also received the title of South Africa’s best baker in 1995 – thanks the thousands of people who voted on Facebook for him to be named News24’s winner this year.
The brass band taking part in the parade at the Grootendorst’s home on December 2. (Supplied: Glen Meyburg)
While his wife says he’ll certainly enter again, Henk believes next year will be time to give someone else a chance to win.
“Jou beurt is jou beurt (Your chance is your chance),” Henk says in Afrikaans, laughing.
“But it’s not about the win – it’s about the joy of it all.”
*The lights at the Grootendorst’s home in Melsetter Road, Lovemore Heights, Port Elizabeth, can be viewed daily until January 2, between 19:00 and 22:00.