This place is lit!
If you can get by there by Dec. 30, feel free to take a stroll through Carroll and Dalton Williford’s yard. But don’t be surprised if you have to wait in a bit of traffic to get there, and be prepared to park well down the street and walk a ways.
The Willifords have one of the most popular residential displays of Christmas lights in Western Branch, if not all of Hampton Roads. But the lights are scheduled to go out promptly at 10 p.m. on Dec. 30, and considering the commitment this exhibition of holiday festivity requires of them, it’s easy to imagine they might be desperate for a break by New Year’s Eve.
For six weeks starting the night of Thanksgiving, the lights on the Williford property, located at 4028 Woodland Drive, attract visitors like moths. The couple has never counted the guests, but they estimate the number reaches well into the tens of thousands, perhaps as many as 50,000 in a season, with visitors wandering below gaily lit arches, past towering star-tipped trees and along a path lined with inflatable decorations.
It’s a bit like living in a fishbowl, Carroll Willliford says. And it’s a far cry from the staid, traditional holiday decorations of her native Germany.
But the truth is that husband Dalton is the driving force behind this mega-display of Christmas décor.
“I feel like I’m giving something to the community that’s free to everybody,” he says.
In fact, Dalton’s love for Christmas lights could be genetic, and it certainly has roots in his childhood.
“I came from a family that had a heavily decorated house,” he said.
Without the slightest sign of irony, he adds that he received his first set of Christmas lights in his stocking when he was 10 and that his parents later found him decorating his bedroom with them one night.
Even their marriage owes something to his penchant for Christmas decorations, Carroll says. They met when she had come to see the display of lights he used to put up when he lived on Maple Drive. “I came over and saw it and just loved it,” she says.
When they decided to build a new home on two and a half acres on Woodland Drive, Dalton looked at the property and said to himself, “I’m going to light that front yard up here.”
And so he has.
The numbers tell the story:
- 100,000 lights;
- Eight arches;
- 45 inflatables;
- Six 28-foot trees with 2,500 lights each;
- 4,000 of the big C9 lights that are his favorite;
- Three different electric meters;
- 350 amps of power each night;
- A Facebook page with about 2,000 members;
- And about $1,200 worth of electricity per season.
“I don’t see the electric bills,” Carroll laughs. “They’re hidden.”
It’s clearly a sacrifice born out of love for the community.
“We love it,” she says. “Almost every single person walks by and says ‘Thank you for doing this.’”
It’s hard not to recognize the amount of work Dalton must put into the display each year.
In fact, he devotes about four months to the project, altogether, and he gives his employees at D&W Garages a lot of credit for their help, both in erecting the more complicated displays and in helping to manage the business while he is occupied with setting up and dismantling the decorations.
Just setting everything up keeps him busy seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, for three weeks, he says.
And that doesn’t even address maintaining all those strings of lights.
“He will spend hours fixing lights,” Carroll says. And there are new maintenance punch lists every day.
“I can’t be embarrassed when something doesn’t work,” Dalton adds. “You have to have plenty of patience and love.”
And an eye fixed firmly on Dec. 30, when the lights go off for the season.