Christmas lights up Suffolk

Published 10:29 pm Monday, December 19, 2016

When Keith Mitchell hears the phrase, “Go big or go home,” he knows he doesn’t even have the second option — because he’s already home.

“I go big every year, but I’ve never gone this big before,” he said.

Mitchell’s Christmas decorations have been steadily growing in the nine years he’s lived in Suffolk. But nothing rivals the roughly 200,000 lights that currently illuminate his Suffolk Meadows home at night.

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“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” he said. He has entered the Cross Realty contest.

Mitchell works as a maintenance technician for the city of Chesapeake and also owns his own heating and air conditioning business. But in between, he’s constantly thinking of ways he can make his home shine.

The front yard and driveway of Keith Mitchell’s house illuminated at night. (Submitted Photo)

The front yard and driveway of Keith Mitchell’s house illuminated at night. (Submitted Photo)

“Every year it gets bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.

This year, the usual lights lining the windows and eaves of the house are there. But the driveway leading to his garage offers the pièce de résistance — a tunnel of 13,000 lights, supported by PVC piping and eight giant candy cane cutouts weighed down with sandbags wrapped as Christmas presents.

People come from all around to look at his lights.

Groups seem to get into a musical mood when faced with the tunnel, Mitchell said. Invariably, they all seem to choose the same song to skip along to — “Ease on Down the Road” from “The Wiz.”

This year, the tunnel worked its magic on one young couple as they walked the tunnel. The young man got down on one knee and proposed. She said yes.

“That really made me feel like this is worth me doing,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got to keep on doing this.”

Mitchell said all of the lights are energy-efficient LED lights, so his power bill typically rises only about $25 to $30 during the holiday season.

Even the tool shed and the back of the house, which faces an adjacent street, are decked out with lights.

“Not too many people do the back of their house,” Mitchell said.

In addition to the lights, the front yard features a 6-foot-tall snowman and gingerbread man, made of plywood by a neighbor.

Mitchell is constantly coming up with ways to make additions and improvements, and he makes small changes off the cuff. But he already has some big ideas for next year.

“Next year, I’m hoping for 250,000 lights,” he said. “My wife said, ‘Let’s get past one year at a time, please.’ In my mind, I’m adding on already.”

But Mitchell said he plans to keep the display tasteful.

“I don’t want it to be congested, where it looks like one big blob,” he said.

Despite all the work — it took about three weeks to set up this year — Mitchell enjoys it.

“I really like what I do, and it’s all for the kids,” he said.

To see the light display, drive by 300 Baron Blvd. after dark.