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Artsy homes for the holidays

Des Moines Christmas Lights

Decorating is an artform and it’s on full display during the holidays.

So we talked with a few homeowners around Des Moines who have a bright holiday spirit…literally.

Like Chris Cyran in Beaverdale.

He decorates his yard and home with over 20 lawn ornaments and inflatables. Then he covers it with lights using over 100 extension cords. It’s one of the brightest homes just off Ashby Avenue—a neighborhood known for holiday decorations—and has been for the last six years.

“My wife buys them, I put them up, and thank God we have a big basement,” Cyran says. “I love to create and build things. Never is it the same each year.”

He starts the day after Thanksgiving, where he has to first take down his inflatable turkeys.

“We celebrate every season with something,” Cyran says.

Living on ‘Candycane Lane’

Ashby Avenue Lights
The candy canes on Ashby Avenue in Beaverdale are made from PVC pipe and tape. The entire street is decorated and illuminated starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Legend has it that a tradition started over 20 years ago with a few homeowners on Ashby Avenue in Beaverdale decorating their homes during the holidays when their grandchildren would come visit.

Then three years ago Tyler Koontz bought a house on Ashby Avenue and learned that tradition spread to more than a few homes; now it’s the whole neighborhood that’s lit during December.

Lights go up the Saturday after Thanksgiving during a neighborhood block party, Koontz says and will stay up until New Years. And on Christmas Eve Ashby Avenue is lined with luminaries with candle lights.

“It’s cool…everyone goes all out,” Koontz says. “Our side and that side are very well known, there are awards that go out for the top design. There are houses that have lights going to music.”

“We’re Candy Cane lane on this side of Ashby and on the other side, they make us look weak,” Koontz says laughing. “We have limos, party buses every Friday, Saturday, Sunday night. It’s impossible to get home.”

An inflatable Jurassic Park

Christmas Inflatables
A pair of the five inflatable dinosaurs Amanda and Kristin Ackerman own.

What do dinosaurs have to do with Christmas?

That’s a question Amanda and Kristin Ackerman hear a lot because of the five inflatable dinosaurs in their front and back yards. Then there’s the inflatable nutcracker, pirate ship and tilt-o-whirl.

And a 20-foot inflatable snowman and Santa are in the backyard because they don’t do well with wind.

“They are fun and different,” Kristin says. “Also a real eye catcher and they just stand out more than one strand of lights.”

Kristin says it takes her and her sister a few hours to set them up and they occasionally adjust them.

“I usually put the dragon in the back, she oversees the dinosaurs, she’s like their leader,” Amanda says. “People slow down and take pictures.”

This is the third year for the, “Dinosaur Garden” and the collection grows each year. Amanda said she’s already ordered two Seattle Seahawk-themed inflatables for next season.

For more…

For specific locations to decorated homes across Central Iowa, visit 

Artsy homes for the holidays | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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