Neighbors keep holiday lights tradition going
By Cindy Beamon
Albemarle Life Editor
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Neighbors in Dances Bay have lit up a huge winter wonderland in their yards for what has turned into a Christmas tradition.
At three homes, about a million lights total shine bright across a dark rural landscape with no street lights to spoil the effect.
Their yards are covered with almost every holiday scene imaginable -- manger scenes, snowflakes, a pixel tree, ice skating pond, wreaths, reindeer, candy canes, igloos, -- you name it. Songs like Polar Express and Alvin and the Chipmunks play in sync with leaping lights if drivers tune their radios to the right frequency.
The family of Brent McKecuen said they jumped into decorating big after moving to the neighborhood about nine years ago.
Dale and Caroline Horn already flashed a big display each year, so the McKecuens began adding more to their decorations.
"It's a little bit contagious," said McKecuen.
His two sons help put up the decorations at their 112 Dances Bay Road home. A light-up Grinch pulling gifts from a sled is one of 7-year-old Carson's favorites. Nathan, 13, has dreams of going wireless soon, so that all the neighbors can link their music and leaping lights together.
This year, the family added a 38-foot lighthouse and giant red sled, among other things. The McKecuens were able to snag the lighthouse and some other new decorations from Southgate Mall after it closed its indoor corridor. They needed a bucket truck to erect the lighthouse, which has become a favorite photo shoot spot for passersby.
The McKecuens are not the only ones joining the fun.
Their neighbor across the street Billy Barclift has also been adding more flash to his collection in recent years. Barclift lights up his lawn and all his trees in blue and gold for the season.
Barclift said his wife Mayrobi started out with lights on their pier and liked them so much, she wanted to add more.
Barclift said he loves seeing children arrive by the busload from churches to enjoy the lights.
Christian Horn, 26, said his family, who started the tradition, has been decorating every since he can remember. He lives in Charlotte now but during a visit home, he could not resist buying two more strings of lights for the display
Horn said the neighborhood tradition has now spread to his new home, where neighbors have begun asking when the "Griswolds," referring to a Christmas comedy, will start decorating.
Other neighbors have also joined the fun.
McKecuen said his sons wanted to help a 90-year-old neighbor put up a display. They noticed the neighbor admired their lights often, so the family decided to wrap his trees too.
Word about the big display has spread on Facebook and word-of-mouth. By the McKecuen's count, 40 cars drive by on week days and the number goes up to about 75 on weekends. The displays usually stay up until New Year’s Day.
The McKecuens said they begin mapping out their layout in July and install decorations after Halloween. Putting up so many lights takes the family about four weeks, sometimes longer. Their oldest decoration is a giant grapevine wreath that McKecuen's mother and father found from the now-closed Watermark Craft Cooperative. A giant flag-pole Christmas tree is also one of their original decorations.
LED lights have become a big money saver. The light bill goes up about $90 a month now, but it was much higher before, said McKecuen.
Last week, the family had more work to do. They still needed to hang some huge snowflakes, another decoration from Southgate Mall. Work was done, however, on adding a giant red sled, once used in the Town of Hertford's parade. The family also installed a new Christmas Tree farm made of artificial trees that about 40 people donated after hearing about the family’s plans on Facebook.
The neighbors said their "friendly competition" is likely to keep going.
"It will continue," Christian Horn predicted.
"It's in the blood," added Beverly McKecuen.