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Suffolk house continues to brighten the holidays 

A family in Suffolk wants to shine a bright light at the end of this dark year.

Keith Mitchell lives at 300 Baron Blvd. The home is tucked into the Suffolk Meadows neighborhood, off Nansemond Parkway, and currently is covered in 1.2 million Christmas lights.

Mitchell starts decorating every year on Sept. 1. He spends three months planning how to top his previous year. Luckily, friends, neighbors and even strangers have happily pitched in to create this winter wonderland.

“It started out as just me but became a community project,” said Mitchell. “I’ll be unloading lights, and people I’ve never seen before come and offer to help. It’s crazy. Couldn’t do it by myself.”

Mitchell has a group of kids and other members of the neighborhood that regularly come to help. Not only do they help with lights, but they come up with new ideas to keep the property looking better each year. The youngest of all the helpers is Mitchell’s granddaughter, Samaria Johnson, who is 5 years old. She asked her “Pop-Pop” for a hundred lights, so he gave her 1.2 million.

“Some of these are the kids’ ideas,” said Tammi Mitchell, Keith’s wife. “They love coming over to help out. They are so proud of what they do, and video what they did and post it on social media.”

This year, Keith Mitchell wanted to make his lights special due to the challenging year everyone has faced. Being an outside display, families can come to view the lights and enjoy despite the pandemic and gathering restrictions.

“We wanted to go this big this year, because COVID has hit us so hard. We want to put smiles on faces this year,” said Keith Mitchell.

“If it gives them a moment of joy, I’m glad to do it,” added Tammi Mitchell.

The display has brought smiles throughout the years and helped produce special moments. In the first year of the tunnel in 2016, a young man took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend. This year, a mother had lost her daughter and wanted to find purple Christmas lights to look at since that was the daughter’s favorite color. Out of all the colors, Keith Mitchell just so happened to put purple lights around the bushes at the tunnel’s entrance, fulfilling the mom’s wish.

“It really makes his day, and it’s been really fun and neat to see people’s response,” said Tammi Mitchell. “He does it because he likes seeing people enjoy it.”

Along with lights, life-size, handmade characters are found across the property. Classic December characters like the snowman and gingerbread man are out front. Being a Disney fan, Mitchell has Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mickey and Minnie in the front to greet those who come. Olaf, his granddaughter’s favorite, has his special spot with twinkling lights. Last but not least is Mr. Grinch trying to steal lights off the shed with his song “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch,” playing in the background.

“We just do it for the kids,” said Tammi Mitchell. “Ours are grown now, and families love to come out to see and help. It really brings the community together.”

The lights first turn on Thanksgiving weekend. This year, more than 400 people came the first night to see the lights. According to Keith Mitchell, around 250 come every night. Mitchell enjoys staying outside to operate the snow machine and talk to visitors who come to enjoy his three months of work.

“It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work,” said Mitchell.