St. Nick meets St. James when ABC's holiday-decoration competition "The Great Christmas Light Fight" alights on Long Island at the home of Chris Stier and family, Monday at 8 p.m.
"I've been doing it here eight years," Stier (pronounced "steer"), 39, tells Newsday of the elaborate Christmas village he and his family mount at their ranch-style home. "And I used to live in East Meadow and I did it there for years."
Stier — co-owner with his brother Ken Jr. of Amityville's Trio Sheet Metal Work — along with his real estate agent wife, Ashley Miller, 34, and their 16-year-old daughter, Serenity, and 8-year-old son, Storm, compete in the episode against families in Palmetto and Orlando, Florida, and Bainbridge, Georgia. The Stier home, awash in points of light, including some that spell "Kringle" on the roof, features "about 15" themed children's playhouses on the grounds atop the home, Stier says — quickly assuring that no children use a ladder to visit the latter.
Inside the ones on the ground, kids find playhouses decorated as Santa's house or themed to movies including "Elf," "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "A Christmas Story," "It's a Wonderful Life" and, says Stiers, "the movie 'Up,' with balloons coming out the top, like a chimney."
One is dedicated to a charitable toy drive for children of the island of Jamaica. "My wife's mother is a teacher in Northport" and another teacher there is originally from Jamaica and returns there often to visit, Stier explains. One year, "I gave her used toys that my daughter had, since the kids there have nothing. And it was nice because then she took pictures with the kids with my daughter's toys, which was amazing — it was an amazing feeling. Those kids were so happy. After that we started doing a toy drive every year, and now every year we have barrels that go down to Jamaica — new, used and all types of stuff for the kids."
The youngest of three, including a middle-child sister who works as a secretary at the family business, Stier got his start in super-decorating due to daughter Serenity, he says. "She was about 2 or 3 at the time. And I really wasn't even into Christmas lights, but I did a couple and she was out there with me and: 'Daddy put more! Daddy put more!' And it's like an addiction," he jokes, "just seeing how happy she was when I was doing more and more. And then every year it became like a bonding thing with us" that afterward began including her younger brother.
Stier was born in Oceanside and raised in Massapequa and Smithtown, and graduated from Smithtown High School East in St. James. He entered the metal fabrication and installation business after his father, whose own father was in the trade, founded Trio in 1983. The company specializes in air-conditioning ductwork — and in one memorable instance about 10 years ago, he says, did so as a subcontractor in the renovation of actor Meg Ryan's apartment in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood.
And win or lose in "Great Christmas Light Fight," he'll always have St. James. "I love it," Stier says. "It's a welcoming town and the little main street there has everything. My wife always says I'm like the mayor because I talk to everybody — I know the pizza guy, the Chinese-restaurant guy, the garbage guys. It's a very nice town and a great place to go out."