Brian Mitchell starts dragging the strings of Christmas lights out of storage — the attic, the basement, multiple closets and an 8’ x 10’ shed — sometime in October. Then come the waving Santas, the plastic light-up figures, the blow molds, the animated dolls, the working carousel, the wire frame train, the “Merry Christmas” sign and, of course, the reindeer.
Setting up his annual (15 years and counting) display takes a lot of time and work, and he wants to be sure he’s ready for opening day the weekend after Thanksgiving. That’s when the cars full of people stop and look on in wonder. “My neighbors are really good about it,” Mitchell says. “I’ve had no complaints.”
Visitors can wander Mitchell’s 1/2-acre property at 16 Francis St. in Claremont, where something is going on in just about every square foot. Mitchell’s 40,000-bulb computerized displays are so good he’s won awards for them and he’s now on the national list of Tacky Light Tours (www.tackylighttour.com).
Does he think his display is tacky? “No,” he says, “that’s just tongue in cheek. I haven’t gone overboard enough to be tacky, except for the pink flamingoes.”
Mitchell explains his love of lots of illumination as “Christmas crazy,” a welcome affliction he’s had since he was a kid. “The holidays have always been huge for me.”
His daughter, now 15, dresses up as an elf; his wife dresses up, too, though she hasn’t found quite the right Mrs. Claus costume yet. Mitchell, of course, dresses as Santa. Weekends only, though.
What’s his electric bill look like? Not too bad, actually. With the computerized operation, the lights aren’t on all at once. Mitchell does, however, say he’s working on switching to less energy-intensive LED lights.
There is no price of admission, just a gentle request for donations to the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD). Mitchell’s in it for the fun and the desire for others to have fun. “I want to see the kids, especially, have a great time,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about.”
This article appears in the December 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine