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Area Christmas displays illuminate holiday season

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By The Staff

Jan Miller doesn't know how many lights are in her McIlwain Road yard, but it takes 11,500 watts to power them.

Jan and her husband, Jerry, started working on their display the weekend after Thanksgiving. The winter wonderland they build in their yard each Christmas includes wooden, hand-painted cutouts, a Nativity scene, inflatable Santas and snowmen, mechanical reindeer and polar bears, and a penguin ice-skating pond.

"It's hard to say which one's my favorite," Jan said. "I keep saying, 'Oh, this is my favorite, that one's my favorite.'"

The Millers, transplants from Ohio, began their Christmas extravaganza of lights about 10 years ago. When they moved to South Carolina five years ago, they brought their decorations with them and introduced the inflatables for the first time.

The display goes up with the expertise of Jerry, an instrument technician by trade, and with the help and muscle of the Millers' daughter, Mandy Shortall, their adopted daughter, Lois Smith, and family friend Diane Brenner.

Brenner made some of the decorations for the Millers.

The warm glow of the lights obviously brings cheer to passers-by, many of whom slow down as they go by the Millers' house and snap pictures through their car windows.

"People go by and wave and say thank you," Jan said. "I like to watch the cars go by real slow."

The display has grown so over the years that it now spills over into their neighbors' yard. Fortunately, their neighbors are Jerry's parents, Ralph and Myrtle Miller.

"I love the lights. It makes me happy and makes a lot of other people happy," said Myrtle Miller, who introduces herself as "Grandma Myrtle."

"At my grandma age, I'm not longer able to decorate inside so I can look out the window," Myrtle Miller said.

This year, the Millers added a computer system that plays music and synchronizes the beats from the music with some of the blinking lights in the display. Relays on the front porch tap and clack constantly, switching power from one part of the system to another.

Jan Miller didn't say how much it costs to power the lights through the holidays, but said the family budgets extra for its power bills come January and February.

"We just send the husband out to work a little harder," Jan said, with a laugh.

Plyler home lights up Rocky River Road

Having children of all ages stroll through their Rocky River Road yard isn't anything unusual for Howard and Dessie Plyler.

But the Plylers don't mind; in fact, Howard said it's expected as folks stop to look at the 27,000 lights on display there. They live along the section of Rocky River Road between Taxahaw and Flat Creek roads.

"Seeing children enjoy them is what it's all about," Howard said. "They are pretty and you can just see a child's eyes light up when they come by. We've been blessed in doing this each year and it's something we really enjoy."

The Plylers have been displaying lights in their yard for 20 years now.

But what makes their Christmas look so unique is that all of the Plylers' lights are on forms.

Manufactured by Christmas Done Bright in Tennessee, each form is handmade by hand using enamel-painted steel frames that mini-lights are attached to. The lights are woven so tight that you can easily identify the illuminated yawn ornaments up close and from a distance.

But putting them out this year proved to be quite a task, Howard said.

"It's usually just a matter of pushing the pins into the ground with my feet," Howard said. "But it's been so dry this year that I had to use a hammer and a big nail and put a hole in the ground first."

From a manger scene and star to Christmas carolers, skaters, poinsettias, doves, ribbons, bows and green garland, swaying trees and Santa's workshop and Santa flying a helicopter, the Plylers'yard is a collection of yuletide scenes that have been collected one year at a time.

"Folks will start asking us about it just after Thanksgiving," Howard said. "We try to get them up about that time and keep them going through Christmas Day. I do the yard and Dessie does the house."

Getting that many lights on line isn't easy, Howard said. They are set on 11 separate timers and on different electric circuits so that nothing gets overloaded.

"Our power bill for December shoots up pretty good," Howard said. "The lights come on automatically about 5:30 every evening and we let 'em run for five hours a day. That's it."

Other lights to see

We asked our readers to share locations where Christmas lights are aglow and here are the places you recommended.

–Black Horse Run

–Hatchway Road

–439 Martha's Vineyard

–406 Rosewood Court

–218 Wilson Drive

–Ranson Road

–1510 Winthrop Ave.

–1968 Littlejohn Drive

–327 Gills Creek Drive