Salisbury home a beacon for the holidays
SALISBURY — If Santa Claus and his reindeer lose their way over Addison County on Christmas Eve and are having trouble finding Salisbury, there will be no need to panic. All they have to do is scan below for a sight that may even be visible from outer space: Wayne and Diane Smith’s residence at 44 North Pond Road.
It is home to one of the most festive and illuminated outdoor holiday displays in the region.
“People love it, and comment on how nice it is every year,” Wayne Smith said with pride on Monday afternoon as the more than 10,000 Christmas lights (and his electric bill) were getting a brief breather. “It’s about community spirit. We enjoy seeing the lights set up and seeing that Christmas spirit is alive and well.”
Wayne Smith has lived at 44 North Pond Road for the past 47 years. Diane joined him 18 years ago after they got married. Wayne, 66, has always loved Christmastime and in his younger years developed a habit of putting up some decorations outside the home to spread some good cheer. But around 15 years ago, he and his elves (aka several friends and relatives) began to take the Christmas display to a whole new level.
“Each year it’s gotten a little bit bigger,” he said.
Indeed, the display has snowballed to more than 100 different lawn figures on 1.5 acres, including penguins, Santas, Nativity scenes, snowmen, the Grinch, reindeer, toy soldiers, trains, candy canes, bears and gift boxes. Some of them are stationary and covered with lights; others are of the blow-up variety, manipulated by fans. Two of Smith’s antique tractors are included in the act, rigged with flashing lights on the tires to simulate movement for a faux tractor pull.
Half a mile of extension cord and several electrical breakers are used to deliver juice to the breathtaking assortment of multi-colored lights affixed to the Smiths’ home and other holiday props.
It takes a whopping 150 total hours for Smith, his neighbor Crispon Butler and friend Ed Constantine of Leicester to set up the display. They begin the arduous task around Nov. 1 and spend roughly three hours a day stringing lights and unleashing the various props from storage to make sure the show fires up on Dec. 1 for its month-long run. Most of the outdoor figures are placed on pallets and/or staked into the ground with posts or steel bars.
“The weatherman is the only Scrooge,” Smith said with a chuckle in noting that gusting wind and persistent snowfall are occasional disrupters of the annual display. The Smiths’ neighbors love the holiday pyrotechnics and there are folks who make special trips all the way from New York state just to park for a few minutes outside the Smiths’ home to drink in the scene. And the Smiths don’t mind; in fact, they have laid out their driveway in a manner that allows people drive-through access to see the show, which spans both sides of North Pond Road. Addison County residents also make the annual pilgrimage to the Smith home, to the extent that it’s not unusual for 30-40 vehicles to stop by on a given day.
Wayne’s personal favorite of his many outdoor displays is a sleigh fronted by four big reindeer. It’s been set up next to a pond.
“On some nights, the lights (from the sleigh display) reflect into the pond,” he said. “It’s a good show.”
The Smiths routinely rotate some items in and out of the display each year to keep it fresh. They like to add to it on an annual basis, though Wayne admits he’s reached that point where expanding the show much more would require him to beef up the electrical power infrastructure at his address. He’d like to avoid that, as the lights add around $20 per day to the family’s power bill through the month of December. But they believe it’s well worth it, and the family is converting to less-energy-hungry LED lighting when possible, according to Smith.
You’d have to travel pretty far to see a Christmas display that rivals the Smiths’. Wayne noted there are some families in Forest Dale that put up some outstanding lights and props, but no one pumps up the Christmas volume like the Smiths. And that spirit is just as alive inside the home as it is outside. While Wayne is in charge of the exterior visuals, Diane adorns the interior of the home with her impressive collection of 40 small village scenes. She also makes ornaments, and has fashioned several in celebration of the Middlebury Union High School football team’s recent success. Wayne’s son, Dennis, is head coach of the MUHS varsity football team, which this year marked its second consecutive undefeated season. Wayne Smith also does announcing for the home games and is a bus driver for the MUHS sports teams for away games.
Of course no home would be complete without a Christmas tree, and the Smiths have a beautiful specimen standing proudly in the corner of their living room, waiting for the family to gather to share presents, food and stories.
Come Jan. 1, Wayne and several helpers will begin the estimated 50 hours of work it will take to uproot the Christmas outdoor displays and unhitch the lights for storage until next December.
But until then, like a child on Christmas Eve, Wayne can’t wait for visitors.
“Everyone loves it,” he said.
The display is switched on from around 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day through December, and then again from around 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. The show will get some extra oomph (weather permitting) on Sunday, Dec. 21, from 6 to 7 p.m., when an illuminated S.D. Ireland cement mixer truck will sit in the Smiths’ driveway.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
Editor’s note: If you or a neighbor have a great holiday light display, email a high-resolution photo to [email protected] by Sunday night and we’ll get as many of them as we can into next Thursday’s edition.
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