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Wright Christmas display great choice for holiday spirit

January 1, 2019

Just over a year ago the Wright family put Dayton on the national map with their award-winning Christmas light display and win on ABC’s popular show The Great Christmas Light Fight. While there are no awards this year, the family is still decorating and demonstrating their love for the season.

It hasn’t been easy.

“With as much rain as we’ve had the last few months, we were behind so my wife and I both took a week of vacation before Thanksgiving to get caught up,” he said.

Last year, more than 25,000 passed through the display and Paul Wright said they come from everywhere.

During the busy nights, Paul said they were going through a 1,000 candy canes an hour.

“It was packed. Just solid people,” he said.

With the popularity of the show, it attracted people from all over the Gulf Coast.

“We saw it on the Great Christmas Light Fight and decided we had to drive over to see it,” said James Eaves and his wife Sharon.

They found the address on Facebook and then mapped their trip.

They made the trek over from Lumberton with their friends Andrew Robinson, his wife and son and couldn’t have been more excited.

Andrew’s four-year-old son was over the moon with the decorations.

“He loves Christmas lights. He was taking photos and saying ‘Cheese’ at every display,” his dad smiled.

Andrew wants to buy some land and do a display himself.

“It will take a while, but I hope to do something like this myself,” he said. He was inspired.

They took their time as they walked through the display, getting ideas themselves for what they might do in the future.

“We enjoyed it so much and we’ll be back again next year,” they all said.

WHAT’S NEW

For those who have been before, there are some new displays and one of them almost as big as the house.

“We found a life-size locomotive on Craig’s List during the offseason,” Paul said. “A gentleman in Dallas built it for his son as a Hogwarts train. We repainted it for Christmas and modified it to fit our needs and now it’s a part of our display,” he said.

Wright said he took numerous photos to see how to reassemble it.

Now it’s a part of the new over-size section.

“That was our reasoning for the larger section. We already had the 15-foot reindeer and sleigh, and the 30-foot tree, and Bumble’s Hideout so we put them all in one section to see at the same time,” he said.

There’s a new archway, poinsettias, and the Joy sign is also new. There’s a new M&M section and plenty of new resin deer. There’s also a new Believe sign, presents, a new windmill, Santa, and much more.

“We always try to change it up and add a few new things each year,” Paul said.

The family got started on the display this year back in September.

Last year, because of the early taping of the show, they started in early August. Then Hurricane Harvey hit. The storm set them back a couple of weeks. They didn’t think they would be finished in time, but they did despite dire circumstances.

“Our son and daughter-in-law lost their car and their house. They lived with us until March of this year until they were able to move into their new home,” he said.

THE WINNINGS

Incredibly, the Wright’s won the competition on the show and were presented a beautiful trophy and a check for $50,000.

“We spent the money to pay off bills and, of course, more Christmas things,” he said.

One of their indulgences was a trip to the famous Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It’s the world’s largest Christmas store with 320,000 sq. ft. of pure Christmas delight.

“I’ve always wanted to go but we just never did. The whole town is built around it. Even at night, the Christmas lights come on and they have nativity scenes and displays that come on,” he said.

The four-story warehouse sits on 7.35 acres or 5.5 football fields of space with a building of just over 320,000 square feet and about 96,000 of it devoted to the salesroom.

When lit up, there are more than 100,000 outdoor Christmas lights illuminating the Bronner’s grounds every night throughout the year.

“They recognized us from the tv show and took us to the back warehouse to see the big stuff,” Paul said grinning.

THE PLANNING

The display doesn’t just happen without a lot of planning and measuring.

“Once we had the train in, we took some measurements and figured out where to place the big stuff like the tree, large reindeer, and sleigh,” he said.

While the large majority remains similar, they have tweaked the display with a lot of details including street signs.

They are satisfied with the basic layout and plan on making a blueprint for next year.

Patty said even while they’re open, they are still working on the display.

“There’s no coasting,” she laughed. “Every night we find things that have gone out and need repair or something that got stepped on, so we take them out and fix them.”

One of the qualities that helped the Wright display win is their commitment to the technical aspect of the display. There are 32 cords buried in a conduit running about 125-foot out from Santa’s Workshop and they stay buried all year long. They are capped off and numbered for the next year.

This year there’s a new conduit that runs the length of the front of the house.

“It has plugs in it and we plug in the light curtains in the front and the light-o-rama,” he said.

It might seem like a huge expense to operate but last year’s light bill for the entire run of the season was just over $260 for the season. They expect it to reach $300 this year with the additional lights that now total a little more than 200,000.

They put up 240 blow molds, 280 wire frames, 60 Christmas trees, and voiceovers added to the music that makes safety announcements and about the display.

The show is played on 90.3 FM radio and can be heard from personal vehicles.

“Seeing everyone smile and know that we touched them in some way is special to us,” they said.

They are celebrating their 19th year with the display.

“I would rather do this than lie around and watch football games,” Paul joked, “but I know there are a lot of folks that would disagree with that.”

He has his cars, his grandbabies, and his Christmas display.

Their web of influence is well into the thousands and the stories are remarkable.

“Some of them leave us crying and them too,” he said.

The light display is more than just candy canes and lights.

The Wrights also collect toys every night that they’re open to give to the foster children of Liberty and Chambers counties.

“Everything we collect goes to about 167 foster kids,” he said. Gifts range from items as small as footballs to bicycles for the children,” Paul said.

The display remains open into the first weekend of January.

NOTE: The public is urged to park on the same side of the street as the actual display so no one is crossing the busy FM 1960.

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