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Sharing the season: Family uses 22,000 lights in annual display

More than the occasional car slows to get a better view of David Hawkins' yard during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The constant creep of 10 mile-per-hour traffic on Cobbham Road lets Mr. Hawkins know all the work was worthwhile.

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Kim Hawkins (left) and her dad David pose with some of their decorations on Cobbham Road.

The holiday light display just outside of Thomson on Highway 150 has been a veritable Christmas attraction in McDuffie County for many years.

And even though the 22,000 lights, 33 inflatables, numerous plastic displays and a huge electric bill are extremely taxing on the wallet and the family's free time, it's still not enough to stop Mr. Hawkins and his daughter Kim from sharing the spirit of the season with the rest of McDuffie County.

"It's for the kids," he said. "I've got three kids, and they grew up out here in the yard helping Daddy put up all this stuff. ...The kids, the community, I've always done it. Everybody always asks, 'You going to do it this year?'"

The Hawkins' yard is filled with glowing Santas, reindeer, polar bears, penguins and snowmen. Strands of colorful lights adorn many of the trees. Lit displays depict the manger scene. One home-made display even shows Santa on a rocket.

Mr. Hawkins had so many Christmas decorations he even filled his mother's yard next door as well. That is where his favorite display can be found. A family of snowmen celebrating the holiday was his first display and remains the one he is most fond of.

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Kim Hawkins said the display's newest addition - Nessie - is her favorite.

"There's a lot of work that goes into that one particular side of the house. That is an all day job just setting it up," he said.

Kim, on the other hand, likes the newest display the best. Nessie, they call it. A Loch Ness Monster, wearing a Santa hat patrols the middle of the pond in front of the Hawkins' home.

"I like Nessie this year because it's different," Kim said. "I mean how many people in Thomson have one? That's the only one I've seen."

And like many of the lights stationed around the edge of the pond, Nessie's reflection glows too, doubling the light show. The reflected lights are one thing that keeps people coming back year after year to see the display, Mr. Hawkins said.

The display doesn't come cheap either. Mr. Hawkins said he has between $60,000 and $70,000 tied up in the yard decorations. He is always looking for more to add to it as well. He spends about $2,000 on additions each year.

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Santa and Mrs. Claus are two of the numerous plastic decorations on the Hawkins' property.

There are so many lights in the yard this year that Kim said they started decorating in October and nearly ran out of time before the traditional first lighting on Thanksgiving night. Next year they plan to test light strands in July and begin decorating by late August or early September.

Those hoping to enjoy the display, have plenty of time each night to do so. The lights are on a timer and begin coming on between 5 and 6 p.m. They start turning off between 11:30 and 12:30.

"Kimberly was talking about today, 'I wish everything would come on at one time.' I said 'Yeah, we'd blow circuit breakers uptown if all of it came on at one time,'" Mr. Hawkins said.

Another change that is in the works for next year is a possible drive through. With everyone slowing to take a gander at the lights, the Hawkins' figured they probably should help to eliminate the traffic congestion and just let everyone take the circle around the property.

But last year, close observers will remember that the display was absent. Mr. Hawkins had surgery and his mother was ill as well. It was only the second time in 30 years that the property wasn't draped in lights for the holidays. The Hawkins' hope that doesn't happen again, for the sake of those who drive by each night of the season.

"It's reasons like that that make it worthwhile," Kim said, nodding in the direction of a car creeping past.

"I really love it," Mr. Hawkins said. "With the front door open, I've sat out there, and I've watched as many as 10 or 12 cars stopped."



Web posted on Thursday, December 22, 2005











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