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Brilliant and bright: Light contest winners announced
Stephen and Tabatha Lewis took top honors this year in the annual Henry County Parks and Recreation Christmas Light Contest. Stephen Lewis, an electronic technician, spends the year working on his light display. The setup includes two Christmas trees that “sing” to eight songs. The family includes sons Colten (standing) and Paxten (being held by Tabatha Lewis). They live at 229 Wickersham Road, Ridgeway. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Area residents decked the halls — and the trees, shrubs, decks, rooftops and anything else they could find — to win top honors in the Henry County Parks and Recreation Christmas Light Contest this year.
For the second year in a row, Stephen and Tabatha Lewis of 229 Wickersham Road, Ridgeway, won first place in the contest. Arlen Doss of 48 Ivy Court, Bassett, won second place, and Ian Hogg of 916 Indian Trail, Martinsville, won third.
For their efforts, the Lewises received a $300 check from Dr. J. Peyton Moore Dentistry in Martinsville. Doss was given a $150 check from Dr. David Jones Orthodontist in Martinsville; and Hogg received an iPod Shuffle from the Parks and Recreation Department.
Stephen Lewis hasn’t even paid the electric bill for his first-place display, but already he is planning next year’s extravaganza.
Those planning to try to top him take note: Lewis is thinking about a 25- to 35-foot “mega-tree” that might have scrolling pictures around it.
Lewis, an electronic technician, spends the year working on his light display. He is able to build the electrical boards at his job in Reidsville, N.C., and he choreographed the display himself.
It is all new this year, and includes two Christmas trees that “sing” to eight songs, with a repertoire as diverse as “Amazing Grace” and the theme from “The Polar Express.” Two seasonal blowups are the only things back from last year.
He keeps the lights on from 6 to 9 each night and noted that his electric bill is up about $40 a month as a result. He said he has 120 channels of incandescent lights and 1,100 different LED channels.
Lewis said he does all the work to create the display himself, except for some help from his children, ages 13, 4 and 2 1/2.
“They love it. Every time somebody pulls up in the driveway they’re out there welcoming them,” Lewis said.
Doss started putting up his display in November but said he should have started earlier.
He worked all day when the weather was nice and guesses he has a total of about 80 hours of manpower in the project.
The display includes nearly 10,000 lights, Doss speculated, although he said he never tried to count them. They include rope lights, candles, candy canes and more.
The display also features half a dozen blowups, lights on trees and shrubs, and a manger scene. His wife Emma did the lights on the railings on their deck and the columns; Doss did the rest of the work, including the roof, he said.
Doss said he is not sure what the display will do to his electric bill, but he is hoping the contest’s prize money will cover the increase.
“I just enjoy it,” he said of the display, which is one of several in his neighborhood. “I like people to come and see it. People talk about how they can see it from Wall Street and ask to come up the road and see it. I like to look at them myself.”
And, of course, Doss expected his grandchildren would enjoy the display when they came for Christmas.
He plans to take the display down when the area gets some warm days in January. Then, the retired teacher will repair lights that don’t work and give some thought to what he will do next year.
Hogg’s display features a number of “floating” decorations suspended from trees, including the centerpiece — an enormous Christmas tree made of lights suspended above his driveway.
“The number one question I get is, ‘How did you get it up there?’” Hogg said.
The answer? With a bow and arrow.
Hogg said he ties a strand of fishing line to the end of an arrow and fires it into the air with his compound bow, aiming to fire the arrow over a tree. Then he ties a piece of twine to the fishing line, affixes the twine to the hanging fixture, and hoists it into the air.
“It definitely doesn’t happen on the first try every time,” he said.
The bow and arrow approach isn’t quite potent enough to suspend his giant Christmas tree, he said. The tree hangs from a steel cable that’s permanently affixed. This year, Hogg said, he invested in a winch to make it easier to hoist the tree.
Hogg estimates that his Christmas display contains about 4,500 LED lights; just the star at the top of the Christmas tree features roughly 350. Hogg prefers LED, he said, because they draw less power than traditional lights, resulting in a lower electricity bill.
This year, he said, he added a few new floating fixtures, including a pig (“I wanted to see if he could fly”) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who floats just above Indian Trail.
To take first place next year, Hogg said, he is considering investing in a light controller, which would allow him to set the lights on his Christmas tree to “dance” in time with music or rise up the tree in a spiral.