Stringing up the Christmas lights after Thanksgiving is a holiday tradition for many families. For Melody Hathaway Bearden and Curtis Bearden, putting up what Curtis estimates are “hundreds of thousands” of lights is an undertaking that takes about three months.
Once the Beardens test all their lights, they celebrate by having a party and inviting the whole town. They are having their 10th annual Turning on the Lights Party from 6-8 p.m. Saturday. Curtis expects a crowd of 500 to 1,000 people at the party, depending on the weather.
“Santa Claus will be here at 6. At 7, we’ll have live music,” said Curtis. “We’ve got a train ride for all the kids, ride them around through all the lights.”
The lighted decorations include animated snowmen, cutouts from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, and a 6-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall Bible that “tells the true meaning of Christmas.” A reflection pond adds to the effect of the holiday lights.
Party attendees will enjoy listening to holiday tunes sung by the Carver Elementary School Chorus and Monte Tippette, a local performer, while eating food prepared by Chick-fil-A. The Beardens’ 9-year-old daughter Autumn, a 4th grader at Carver, will sing a solo “All I want For Christmas Is You.”
To top it off, party attendees will enjoy “one of the biggest fireworks displays around,” Curtis said. S&W Productions out of Wake Forest will provide the fireworks display.
Admission to the party is free, but the Beardens will have a donation box for those who want to contribute to this year’s cause. All the donations will go to the family of 9-year-old Lucas Moore, who broke his neck in a car accident and has a lengthy recovery ahead of him.
“It will help his family out to have a nice Christmas and not to have to worry about bills that are piling up,” Curtis said. He said he and his wife feel “blessed” to have two healthy children –Autumn and 23-year-old Dillon – and just want to help other children who “aren’t as fortunate.”
“We know exactly what these families were going through because year before last, we were in the same situation. We didn’t know if our son was going to make it through the night,” said Melody. Dillon was in a car accident and had injuries similar to Moore’s.
The “turning on the lights” tradition started when the Beardens brought their then-newborn daughter Autumn home for the first time just after Christmas and has grown every year since.
“Our daughter was born on Dec. 30, so we wanted the house to look special when we brought her home from the hospital,” Curtis said. Now, Autumn is very much a part of the Christmas lights tradition, and the meaning behind it.
“It’s just having a good feeling in your heart that you’re helping another child that’s sick or in need,” she said. Over the years, the Beardens estimated they have raised between $25,000 and $30,000 for children in need as a result of their “turning on the lights.”
The lights will be on every evening at the Beardens’ home until the end of December. The Beardens live at 38 Sir Dillons Lane, off N.C. Highway 33 just north of Tarboro.