For Fairmount resident Gary Stewart, Christmas lights became part of his holiday celebration ritual nearly 40 years ago, and nowadays he’s approaching nearly 100,000 shining lights for his annual display, more than enough to draw drivers and their families past his property out in eastern Gordon County.
“There are definitely people who come out to see it,” said Stewart, who lives at 23 Mountain Creek Trail N.E. in Fairmount.
All told, Stewart’s Christmas light show includes about 350 trees either wrapped in strings or hung with lights streaming in a vertical pattern, about 100 shrubs circled in lights, 12 extra outdoor outlets for connecting everything, an extra fuse box to managed the power, and dozens of other displays and designs that total about 90,000 lights strong. Among the displays are several specifically designed to honor lost family members and pets.
Stewart said he spends about two or three hours each day between about mid September and Thanksgiving getting everything set up and ready. And while most of the tree lights stray up year round, he still has to check each strand of lights to make sure everything is working. Just over the weekend he pointed out about 60 or 70 strands stashed in his garage awaiting repairs.
“People see all of this and say I’m crazy, so I just go with that and tell people I’m crazy,” Stewart joked.
In reality, the tradition was started by Stewart’s cousin when the two lived with one another in the early 1980s in Dalton. They eventually moved to different places, but Stewart kept decorating with Christmas lights, first at his Bartow County home and then later in Fairmount when he moved there in 2003.
Stewart, who is retired from the finance industry, says he will have about a mile worth of Christmas lights lit up beginning the night of Thanksgiving. He also uses about 1.5 miles worth of extension cord to power everything up. He said he’s never paid too much mind to the power bill in later November and December, but he estimates the display costs him about an extra $100-150 each month on his utilities for the season.
“I still have more I want to add before I am finished,” Stewart said.
Among the existing features is an “eagle garden” that features a statue of an eagle and red, white and blue lights in honor of Stewart’s late sister, who was an Air Force veteran. There’s also a display in honor of his cousin who died in 2010, the one with whom Stewart started the light tradition.
And there are also tributes to lost pets, including a lighted archway and a special tree lit up in honor of the cat that used to scratch there.
Whether it’s tradition or tribute or simply the spirit of the season, Stewart said with everything going on in the world, he takes joy in presenting his annual Christmas celebration.
“It’s Christmas and it’s still time to light up the night,” he said.
Stewart will first light up his holiday display on Thanksgiving night, and he will turn it on every night, weather allowing, through Christmas night. He’ll turn on the lights at about dusk each evening and leave them on until about 8 or 8:30 p.m. on weeknights and to about 10 or 10:30 p.m. on weekends.