Bold Christmas displays brighten neighborhoods
HUNTINGTON — After the sun sets, the brightest star along James River Turnpike Road near Milton becomes the house belonging to Tony and Kerrie Harris.
The Harrises are part of a group of Christmas fanatics who adorn the outside of their homes with thousands of Christmas lights every year, attracting a steady stream of onlookers and admirers.
It’s a labor of love for Tony Harris, who said he begins hanging the lights before December, pouring more than 40 hours into the glowing spectacle. This is Harris’ fourth year of “going all out” with the decorations, but his 10th year hanging lights in general.
“One of the main reasons why I do what I do is to spread the word of Jesus, because I usually incorporate a cross,” he said. “Another is because when we were driving around, very rarely did you see any displays like what I’ve turned into now. It was just roof outlines and things like that. I don’t think we even had icicle lights back in the late ’80s or early ’90s.”
Harris said he titled this year’s work “The Calvary,” which features a cross with white and green lights around it.
He has fond memories of his family driving around to see the neighborhood Christmas lights when he was a kid. He’s happy to keep that tradition alive.
“What makes it worth it is the kids’ reactions. That’s the main driver,” he said. “Even the grownups are just as giddy as the children sometimes.”
This is the Harrises’ first year in the neighborhood, having moved there before this Christmas. They are located right next to the old Morris
Memorial Hospital property, making it impossible to miss their house, Harris joked.
Before moving in, he warned his neighbors that their neighborhood was about to get a lot brighter.
“I told them I like lights, and they said, ‘Great, we like lights, too,’ ” he said. “I said, ‘No, I really like lights.’ ”
So far the neighbors have been receptive to the colorful display, and one neighbor asked if Harris would string some lights over to one of his displays, he said.
He’s already planning for next year, hoping to make it bigger and more elaborate than it is now.
On 3rd Avenue in Huntington, it’s hard to miss the Christmas display at the home of Travis King, which features more than 11,000 lights and festive music timed to a light show. There are several inflatable figures and a cardboard cutout of Buddy from the movie “Elf.”
King, an engineer, said he enjoyed driving around looking at Christmas lights when he was a kid and wanted the same thing for his house as an adult.
About 30 cars a night, including vans and church buses, come to see his display. It takes several weeks to get the lights strung up and the show in working order, he said. That includes the help of several friends and volunteers.
“I try not to put anything up before Halloween, just because I don’t like to invade other holidays,” King said. “Typically, the day after Thanksgiving is game on.”
Both King and Harris said the extravagant lights don’t affect their electricity bills much. Thanks to advances in lighting technology, their bills only increase by about $20 a month.
“That’s a very common question because people always say, ‘You must have a special deal with the electric company,’ ” King said. “It’s actually not that bad.”
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.