PITTSVILLE – A walk-through Christmas lights display in Pittsville marked its 20th and final year of operation this week.
Since the 1990s, homeowners Bill and Ginger Morrison have welcomed community members onto their Parker Place property each Christmas for a free, walk-through holiday display that features lights, decorations, figurines, hot chocolate, popcorn and appearances by Santa.
While the number of lights and visitors has grown over the years, the homeowners have announced that this year’s display – known to many as Christmas at Parker Place – would be its last.
Bill said he and his wife purchased their Pittsville home in 1990 and for the first few years would string lights around the windows, banisters and other outdoor areas. All of that changed, however, soon after the family took a trip to Disney in the mid-1990s.
“I got a few ideas from them and then just by looking on the Internet I developed more ideas over the years,” he said. “A lot of it was the fact that I was a younger person and I was driving my wife crazy at night, especially in the winter, because there was nothing to do.”
Bill said what started out as a few hundred house lights and three lawn figurines soon grew to more than 200,000 lights and upwards of 400 decorations, many of which are located in his neighbor’s yard. While a donation box is set up to cover the electric bill, Bill said the display has remained free to all who have visited over the years.
“It wasn’t designed to be where it is, but it grew and we love it,” he said.
While he acknowledged the joy the display has brought him, Bill said he is ready to step away from his hobby for the time being.
“I love doing it,” he said, “but as I’ve gotten older it takes longer and longer.”
Bill, a full-time plumber, said he does most of the set-up and tear-down for the display, which takes an average of six months to complete.
“You have to be committed to it,” he said.
Bill noted that he might return with a smaller display in the future, but until then will spend time enjoying the holidays with his wife and taking care of his aging mother.
“It’s really a catch 22,” he said. “I really don’t want to stop it, but on the other hand I see things coming in the future.”
Bill said he would miss the families he has grown accustomed to seeing on a yearly basis. Each year, his walk-through display attracts between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors.
“The thing I will miss is people,” he said. “There are families that have been coming to me for years. In the last three or four years especially we have been getting second generations to come and sit on Santa’s lap.”
While some have shared their disappointment, Bill said many community members have expressed their understanding.
“There are a thousand reasons for me to keep doing it and there are a thousand reasons for me to stop doing it,” he said. “I’m going to end it on my own terms, at least in its present form.”
Bill said he will make a decision next year on the future of the display, but expressed his gratitude for the community’s support.
“We thank everybody for coming out and supporting us throughout the years,” he said.