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Lighten up at area Christmas displays

POSTED: March 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.
/For The Times

The light show at the Baptist Student Center at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega includes thousands of lights that are timed to Christmas music.

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Now that the holiday season is cranking into full gear, people all over Northeast Georgia are setting up Christmas light displays.

And this year they are going for bigger and better.

So if your friends and family are interested in checking out some local Christmas lights here is a list of a few fun places.

Baptist Student Center

166 Park St., North Georgia College & State University, Dahlonega. 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. 706-864-6402.

Features: An 18-minute show with about 60,000 lights synchronized with Christmas songs.

"The students help, but it’s kind of my son’s and my project," said the Rev. Ken Jones, campus minister at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega. "We saw it on the Internet and so we said ‘We’ve got to do this.’ It’s a light show that is synchronized down to a 10th of a second ‘Wizards of Winter’ by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra."

The light show also features a Christmas story portion with a lighted 8-foot nativity scene complete with a star. There is a coffee house inside the Baptist Student Center for those interested in refreshments.

"We had over 1,000 people last year and are just hoping for more this year," Jones said.

The McIlwraths

Church Street, Flowery Branch

Features: A friendly competition among neighbors

In Flowery Branch, Mike and Rhonda McIlwrath have begun a Christmas light tradition that is spreading throughout the neighborhood.

"We were the first ones to decorate on our street and that started a three-way competition," Rhonda McIlwrath said. "Believe it or not, my old husband is getting left in the dirt by these young guys."

Several homes on Church Street and nearby Mitchell and Mooney Streets also have light displays.

"It is so funny how it has turned out," she said. "He’s (Mike) hooked on blow ups now, to tell the truth. We have a band that plays music and an 8-foot snowman, a snow globe, the Santa with the Christmas packages.

Although, the blow-up, music-making decorations such as the Blues Brothers-esque characters playing jazz music, do have a downside.

"You have to turn it off because it gets pretty annoying after two or three hours every night," she said.

The couple also decorate a special tree to honor passed loved ones.

"We have a different color light on it each year for someone that has passed away," McIlwrath said. "My husband has worked for two months trying to get that tree to work because what happens is each year is the tree grows and it pulls the plugs pulled apart."

The Ellises

2906 Lea St., Gainesville

Features: Decorated trees and thousands of lights

Wayne Ellis said he just wants more people to come by and enjoy his light display since he lives on a street a little less traveled.

"I’ve got a little over 30,000 lights," he said. "My wife (Faye) said I started this when the kids were little, and they grew up and I didn’t."

The home features 45 lighted trees. "We add a few thousand lights every year," Ellis said.

The McAllorums

7945 Gooseneck Place, Sterling on the Lake, Flowery Branch. The show runs 6 to 10 p.m. each night through New Year’s Eve. For more information contact 770-912-4293.

Features: Computer-controlled light display with radio-broadcasted show

The McAllorum house is one of the more elaborate displays in the area with their own radio station that plays a 15-minute radio show synchronized with the lights.

"Last year was our first year and my husband and I decided to go computer animated," Michelle McAllorum said. "Our Christmas lights are completely controlled by the computers. I took on the project last year and did it again by myself. We have 15,000 lights ... our whole front yard is done, even the grass is covered with lights."

The computer system, Light-O-Rama, controls the lights with 48 channels of computer controls. The house is also an official drop spot for Toys for Tots, and the family is collecting canned goods for the South Hall Food Pantry, too.

The family was featured Friday on WXIA-TV Channel 11 when the weather was broadcast at 6 and 7 p.m. from their home in Sterling on the Lake.

"I started working on this display in February and it takes me, for every minute of song, about nine hours," McAllorum said.

The family also has a large Halloween display each year.

The Browns

2773 Dawsonville Highway, Dahlonega. The lights are on from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. each night and about 5 to 7 a.m. each morning.

Features: More than an acre of lights.

Syble and J.D. Brown have been spreading their Christmas cheer through lights for four year now.

"We have about an acre and a half of lights," Syble Brown said. "We try to do the lights in sections so that each section will tell a story.

The couple spent six weeks preparing for the light display. "We just would like everyone to come and see them and we have worked hard getting them out," she said. "Our house is about five miles past Dahlonega on Ga. 9 South ... and other homes in the area are lit, too."



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