For Lloyd Williamson III, the holidays are the perfect time to develop cherished family memories. With three young grandchildren, one of his favorite moments of the season is watching them play in a winter wonderland of his creation. Every year in November, Williamson starts blanketing his and his mother-in-law, Tiny Sullins', property with thousands of colorful outdoor lights.
"Years ago after I got out of the military I had two lights, two little candles," said Williamson, who resides at 252 Highway 293 near Emerson along with his wife, Vicki. "Then my son really liked it so we'd add more, did a little bit more. We'd go to places and see lights outside and I'd say, 'Well, I like that.' So I'd add a few more, just every year add more and more.
"About two years ago I thought we were going to cut back some but at that time my 3-year-old grandbaby really liked them so I started adding more lights. ... [Now] they'll get out there in the sled that I made probably about 25 years ago. I saw a design that I liked at the local Kmart and just drew it out and measured it and then went home and worked on it during the summer and had it ready for the first Christmas about 25 years ago. On the sled, I've got lights draped around it with a lighted Santa Claus sitting in the seat and then lighted packages on the outside sitting on the ground. Then in front of it, this year, I did [the display] a little different. I put some cable that you can't see [and] I hooked it to the ground. [I] took it to the top of the gazebo and then I've got the reindeers looking like they're taking off with Rudolph at the very front. It's just something that I enjoy doing."
Between his residence and Sullins' home, which is next door at 248 Highway 293, more than 20,000 lights outline structures and cover bushes and about 18 trees.
"We start about the 15th of November because it takes about two weeks," Williamson said. "We'll turn them on. We try to get them all on by Thanksgiving night and every night I'm having to go out and reset a fuse, change a timer, something's burnt out or something like that.
"As to how many, it sounds like a lot but on each tree there's probably 800 to 1,000 lights. Then you've got each strand of icicle lights, [which] is 300 to a strand, and [we will put] about 10 strands on each house. So we figure it's probably 25,000 lights, thereabouts. It's probably a little bit more."
Echoing Williamson's sentiments, Scott Allen also takes joy in creating magical memories for children and adults who are young at heart. As the owner of Pettit Creek Farms, his 80-acre farm at 337 Cassville Road in Cartersville welcomes guests nightly for its Christmas Light Show. Started more than 10 years ago, Allen said, the event requires a "blue-jillion" lights.
"We don't have any idea how many light bulbs are out there. Every year we talk about counting the strands, doing the math, but you get to putting them out like crazy and you forget to count, forget to write [the number] down," Allen said. "After about the third or fourth year of that, you just get aggravated with it and you quit trying to count them. [So you say] a blue-jillion lights.
"[This year] we've got animated polar bears fishing. We've got penguins ice skating on the pond. We've got snowmen battling over the road. We've got sleigh boys jumping the road. There's some trees here that's decorated 30, 40, 50 feet in the air. ... We've got 25-foot-tall archways," he said, adding in addition to the lights, there are "marshmallows to roast, smores to build, a petting zoo going on, pony rides [and a] euro bungee."
Attendees have two different ways to view the Christmas Light Show -- vehicle or hayride.
For $15 per vehicle, people can drive through the more than one mile route. Until Dec. 30, the offering is available to the public nightly from 6 to 10. Santa Claus visits the farm each Thursday to Sunday.
Guests have the option to partake in a hayride, which costs $10 per adult and $8 for children. There is no charge for youth younger than 2. During the hayride, participants are able to view the lights as well as get a closer look at the many animals that reside at Pettit Creek Farms, ranging from camels to reindeer. A hayride or drive through is free with the purchase of a Christmas tree.
When possible, Allen also enjoys fostering children's belief in the Christmas spirit.
"When I get to be down on the road or down there directing traffic, [sometimes] one of the little kids look at me and say, 'Are you the real Santa Claus?'" he said. "I always grow my beard out and I've got a red jacket that I wear around here just in case Santa Claus is busy, you know. So I guess probably my favorite part is to see a twinkle in a little bitty kid's eye when he says, 'Are you the real Santa Claus?' And I don't say a word. I just go, 'Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho' and turn around and walk off."
For more information about Pettit Creek Farm's Christmas Light Show, call 770-386-8688 or visit www.pettitcreekfarms.com.