NEWS- Deck the roof: What light from yon window breaks?
For some, Christmas is a season synonymous with excess, while for others the holiday is more about giving, sharing, family, and friends. Folks who put up Christmas lights and decorations every year have found a brilliant way to strike a balance. They certainly aren't minimalists, but they create a glowing winter wonderland for the community to enjoy.
As the Hook reported last week, the area's most extravagant single-home display returned this season from an illness-induced hiatus. The lights up in the trees and in and around the home of Ginny and James Perkins of Ruckersville have blinked on for the first time since 2005.
On Agnese Street in Charlottesville's Pen Park-area neighborhood is famous for house after house and yard after yard of Christmas decorations. By early November, festive lights were hanging from the fence surrounding the house of Billy and Dot Meadors as they had already put two weeks of work into the centerpiece of their holiday display: a miniature village.
Sylvia Brown also lives on Agnese, and while she doesn't decorate her house to the extent that many of her neighbors do, she enjoys the fruits of her labors.
"It seems like it's become competitive," she says. "One year someone tries to outdo the other."
Two years ago, her grandson, Christopher Greene, helped her put up lots of decorations while he was on leave from the Marine Corps. The young sergeant is now on his second tour in Iraq, so this year she will put just a wreath on her door, light-up garlands on her deck, and place lights in her windows.
Just a few houses down from the Meadors on Elizabeth Avenue, Herman and Mable Haney usually start in early November and put the finishing touches on their decorations by Thanksgiving. Their house is already awash in lights and decorations, including a manger scene, reindeer, snowmen, Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, and even a miniature carousel.
The best Christmas decorators in town have had years of practice. The Meadors have been decorating for "umpteen years," they say, and in that time they've gained lots of experience and lots of attention.
"People say, ‘I hope you all are going to do your Christmas decorating this year!'" Dot Meadors says. "Some of them come back two or three times. Someone even put $10 in our mailbox toward having the lights on." They once even received an Arby's gift certificate from a devoted fan.
The Haneys have been decorating for many years too, and they've also garnered a following. "You can't get up or down the street because there are so many people trying to see the house," says Herman Haney.
Last year alone, according to Mabel Haney, five limousines, several church buses, and the Charlottesville trolley stopped to take a gander.
On Meeks Run in Crozet, Steve Meeks and his father, Gene, have been decorating since 1994 when Steve's daughter was born. Gene Meeks estimates they put up "about 150,000 lights" each season.
Steven describes their display as a "forest setting," and it must be an Arctic forest since he says, "I put up a penguin village." But– perhaps aiming for wider appeal– he says he plans to "redo and upgrade the Santa village scene."
Meeks and his father have become more adept over the years. "It used to take a month to put up," he says, "but it has sort of become second nature now."
Their light show can be seen from the public road, but the Meeks say that visitors are welcome to drive up the private road to get a better view.
Right in the heart of the little burg of Ivy, visitors can shop and see a great light show thanks to William Vlasis, owner of Ivy Corner, a plant and gift store. Vlasis has over 22,000 lights in the display on the store's roof. They even show their American pride with a six by ten flag in honor of 9/11. The flag has three thousand lights, one for each person who died in the attacks on the Twin Towers.
The king of the Christmas light show might be Jeff Norford, who lives on Mountain View Street in Hogwaller. He estimates that as many as 20,000 visitors swing by his display each season.
"There are non-stop cars from the second week of December through the first week of January," Norford says. "Car after car after car, the closer it gets to Christmas, the more cars come."
Norford's favorite decorations are the blow-up characters. Among the many he will have this year are Mickey Mouse, Spongebob Squarepants, Pooh and Tigger, Snoopy and Charlie Brown, and five or six new ones. He says he "tries to change it around every year."
If your Christmas spirit begins to wane this season, visiting one of these light shows may rekindle a love for the holidays– or if nothing else, provide some amusing entertainment.
[The print version of this story misstated the branch of the armed services in which Mrs. Brown's grandson serves. It has been corrected in this online edition–editor.]