Around the time everybody starts thinking of what costume they’re going to wear for Halloween, Don Perry is thinking Christmas lights.
It’s his own fault, he’ll be the first to admit, but if he’s going to maintain his unofficial title of “Sanford’s Clark Griswold,” Perry has to start unraveling those lights and stringing them around his front yard trees and bushes and along his driveway — thousands and thousands of little bulbs — in October. The inflatables — dozens and dozens of them — go up around Thanksgiving.
It all gets turned on Dec. 1 (if he makes it in time). His home on Rockwood Drive in West Sanford (you can’t miss it at night) is a sight to behold.
And for Perry, all the hard work is worth it.
“I’m 61, and I don’t get on the roof anymore … my son-in-laws do that now. And it’s not always easy to go out at night and cut everything on by hand, because I’m still not using those automatic on and off programs. And it’s certainly not fun to do it when it’s raining,” says Perry. “But I’ve always said if I can bring a smile to someone’s face, then none of this is work. If this brings a little joy to someone’s heart, then that’s what this is all for.”
Perry’s home can be seen from several blocks away — Rockwood Drive can get backed up on some nights as drivers with children and dogs crammed in the back seats slow to a crawl so everybody can “ooh” and “aah” the decorations and catch the small details. Outhouses with Santa peeking out … snow globes … Will Ferrell’s Elf … nativity scenes are just a few of them.
He started decorating his home in the mid-90s — the finished product was tame then compared to today’s standards. It began with the lights, then as a gag, Perry bought a six-foot-tall blow-up Santa Claus (back before they were popular, he adds).
“As the children got older, they got to liking it,” he says. “So every year, I added more. Lights started going on the bushes and on the roof. Then we started going higher in the trees. By 2000, it kinda got out of control. And every year, I’m adding more.”
He enjoys the comparisons to Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In fact, one of his nativity scenes is the same Chevy Chase used in the classic movie. When he began, not a lot of homes in his neighborhood were decorating, but today, he’s starting to see competition spring up around him. He notes one nearby house on the aptly named Holiday Road and another home on Carbonton Road.
“They’ve gone overboard, too,” Perry says. “But they do theirs with a lot more organization. Mine’s just a bunch of tacky colors.”
He does have a favorite piece among the Christmas cacophony — an eight-foot plywood sign painted by his sister-in-law a few years ago. The sign features the names of Perry’s entire family, and since its creation, he’s started adding his grandchildren’s names to it.
“Hopefully it’s something we’ll keep adding to,” he says. “It’s the neatest thing.”
The Perry home will be lit up beginning Dec. 1, and the lights will stay on through the New Year.
— by Billy Liggett
More Christmas Lights
There aren’t a ton of neighborhoods in our city that get together to purposely wow the local citizens, but there are several homes and businesses around Sanford that would do Clark Griswold proud. Below are a few of our favorites.
Carolina Women’s Fitness
Interactive fun — three spots outside of the gym on Center Church Road in Tramway where you can drive up, turn your dial to the FM station posted in front of those lights and watch them blink and play along with the music. The highlight is the reindeer quartet singing Christmas songs.
David and Kay Ward’s house on Carbonton Road is also a wonderland of Christmas lights and inflatables, and it’s worth slowing the traffic behind you to take it in. They’re also starting to go all out for Halloween and Thanksgiving, too.
Not far from Don Perry’s House is another impressive display (more tactifuly done, Perry admits) on Holiday Road in West Sanford. And yes, you now have that song stuck in your head. You’re welcome.
Broken Plow Farm
Unlike the previous entries, this one costs money ($9 a person), but your ticket includes a hayride and visit with Santa. The hayride takes visitors through a nice assortment of lights.
Mockingbird Lane, in the Quail Ridge community, has several homes that do pretty well when it comes to lights. It’s one of the few local neighborhoods where they seem to try to outdo each other.
A few years ago, Downtown Sanford Inc. and the City of Sanford joined in to light up downtown’s Depot Park with lights surrounding the square and the depot building, and moving lights on the train. It’s certainly worth a stop or a drive-by during your lights search.