First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON -- A 14-year tradition by the families on Rozier Siding Road continues to light up the night sky -- and the Christmas spirits of thousands of strangers.
The surreal light show in the 1800 block of Rozier Siding Road draws an estimated 20,000 people between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Their cars line the road nightly, between 5:30 and 11 p.m., inching along bumper to bumper as their occupants take in the sights and holiday sounds. The displays can be seen as far away as the U.S. 301 Exit at Interstate 95.
While free to the public, the cost is real for Terry Smith -- about $600 a month extra that he pays to light the thousands of Christmas decorations that pull visitors in from as far away as Fayetteville. Smith can't explain why he and his brother Bunker -- now joined by several relatives and a neighbor -- have provided the spectacle since 1988, except to say that it's a time for their families to spend together. The display begins taking shape as early as September.
“If you don't get a chill, there's something wrong with you,” said Barbara Bryant, who was part of a group of 30 from Fayetteville who accounted for five of the cars that were lined up Saturday night. “It's downright pretty.”
The eyes of her kids grew wide as they took in the ocean of lights, snowmen, the miniature church, the biblical figures, the Christmas trees made out of lights and the canopy tent of lights.
An animated Santa Claus rocked and rolled while singing “It's a Jolly, Holly Christmas.” Nearby, a live Santa handed out lollipops to children and had his picture made with Daisy, a 4-year-old Scottish terrier, the “only child” of Lisa and Dwayne Hayes, who have come from Whiteville.
The nativity scene is Barney Clark's favorite. Clark and 19 other members of the Custom Cruisers Car Club have visited for the last three years.
“It gets bigger every year,” said Craig Lovette, making his second visit with his family, who say they like the Biblical scenes the best.
Terry and Bunker began with a few lights, but their numbers grew each year as the brothers tried to out-do each other. Terry remembers standing in the yard on a Fourth of July, wearing his Bermuda shorts, looking at the house and the yard, and trying to come up with Christmas display ideas.
“You get one thing and then another thing,” Terry Smith said. The most difficult task is deciding where to put all the different decorations.
“We decide as we go along,” said Pete Lowery, Bunker and Terry's brother-in-law.
Every year, Terry Smith bought more and more lights and put up more and more displays. To get enough juice for all the electric displays the families have had to install a special 200 amp breaker box.
“I never thought I was that crazy,” said Terry Smith, who wouldn't venture a guess as to how many lights are in the display.
In addition to Terry and Bunker's two homes, seven other households are involved in setting up displays. They include Lois and her husband Pete Lowery; James and Jackie Ivey, Lois' daughter; Ed and Regina Lowery, Lois' son; Patricia and Daryl Goins, Bunker's daughter; Gerald and Felicia Smith, Terry's son; Bessie Carter, neighbor; and Bessie's son Jeffrey Carter and his wife Maxine.
“We just do it to be a blessing to other people,” said Lowery, who owns a florist shop that is surrounded by the display, where visitors pick up hot chocolate to fight the night chill. A bonfire nearby adds to the holiday glow.
Both Terry and Bunker will start to take their displays down the Thursday after Christmas Day, but their sister plans to keep hers up a few more days.
“It don't take near as much time to take it down,” Terry Smith said.