The decorations are out and lights are shining again along Hope Ferry Road.
For more than 20 years, the Keisler family and their relatives have adorned the Lexington County neighborhood with elaborate yard displays during the Christmas season, providing what has become one of the area’s most popular drive-by locations.
The display covers four properties and features a mix of religious symbols related to the birth of Christ as well as numerous trees and an assortment of holiday figures and cartoon cutouts – all illuminated by hundreds of thousands of lights.
The lights typically come on at dark each evening and stay on until around 10 p.m. The display opened Thanksgiving day and will continue through New Year’s Eve.
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Wayne Keisler, one of the family members, talked about the labor of love and what goes into making it happen each year.
When does the decorating begin each year?
Keisler: We start with the decorating every year about the end of October.
How many people are involved in the effort?
Keisler: For my brother (Kevin Keisler and wife Karen), parents (Wyman and Nila Keisler) and my house, it’s just my brother and me. My aunt and uncle (Marvin and Frances Derrick) get help with the cutouts from their two daughters, Dawn Risenger and Mandy Smith, and also from their grandchildren.
How does the process work each year?
Keisler: We put the dead trees in the ground first and then lay out all of the cords. Then it’s a matter of putting up the lights and fixing any that were left up from last year. The only thing we leave up are some white lights, as the colored lights fade if left out in the weather.
About how many hours go into getting things ready each year?
Keisler: It takes well over a hundred hours for my brother and me. My aunt and uncle start late summer cutting out and painting new figures. They have over 250 pieces that all are handmade and painted. My brother and I take a week of vacation to finish things.
Can you talk about some of the late nights of decorating?
Keisler: Most days when we’re off, we work to 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. When hanging lights, a lot of it has to be done after dark when you can see colors and tell whether it looks the way you want it to.
What are some of the greatest challenges you face each year?
Keisler: The greatest challenge lately has been the weather. Also the physical aspect of the late nights and heavy work take a toll. It’s not just hanging lights; it’s putting 75 trees in our barn after Christmas for the next year. Also before the cords and lights are put out, you have to trim shrubbery, clean the yard and get out the heavy totes of lights.
And what is the most gratifying aspect of this gift to the community?
Keisler: Hearing the comments and seeing so many cars going by and people looking.
Do you or your family ever take the time to go and view other holiday yard displays?
Keisler: Oh yes we look at other displays. We sometimes find a new idea for our yard but mostly we come up with our ideas by brainstorming.
Do you typically keep the same layout each year?
Keisler: The base layout is usually the same. The dead trees have a set hole with a piece of 4-inch pipe in the ground where we can get them back in the same place year after year. We do try to add something new each year.
OK, we have to ask. What about that December power bill?
Keisler: Yes, that hurts. We have three 200 amp service poles, one for each house except for mine, and I even have circuits dedicated for lights, so you can imagine what that does to your bill. Equal pay helps when you can spread it out over the whole year.
How long do you think your holiday legacy will continue?
Keisler: We have been doing this at some level (in the community) for almost 30 years. It takes so much time and money and as we get older the labor required gets harder. I know we can’t go on forever and I hope someone else will take up decorating when we can no longer do it, but I’ll just enjoy the lights while they are up. This is the best time of year.