Lights glow one final time for holiday display

SALISBURY RESIDENT WAYNE Smith, 74, stands in front of the extravagant holiday light show he’s put on every year for three decades. Smith recently announced this year’s display would be his last, as the work has gotten to be too much for him and his neighbors. Independent photo/Steve James

SALISBURY — For the past 30 years, Wayne and Diane Smith’s light show has been a hallmark of the holiday season in Addison County. During the month of December, loads of people drive by the couple’s home to see it decked with decorations that far exceed the typical holiday lawn display. 

The length of their cul de sac in Salisbury near the north end of Lake Dunmore is outfitted with flashing reindeer, a variety of inflatable Christmas-themed characters, other festive wonders and more than 10,000 lights. 

“It’s been a long process to get where we are,” Wayne said proudly of the display.

A PLETHORA OF Christmas-themed creatures, candy canes and over 10,000 colorful lights fill the Salisbury cul de sac that Wayne Smith and his wife Diane live on near Lake Dunmore. The Smiths have been putting together the festive light show for community members for 30 years and have decided that this year’s display will be their last.
Independent photo/Steve James

Sadly, this holiday season will be the last that local residents will be able to view the Smiths’ display in all its glory, as 74-year-old Wayne said the couple has decided it’s time to retire from the extravagant tradition. 

“Our ages are all getting up there and it’s just gotten to be too much work.” 

Independent photo/Steve James

The Smiths have been putting on their light show every year for the last three decades. The tradition began with a love for Christmas and a much smaller light display.  

“I just enjoyed Christmas. (The display) was always my wife and my Christmas gift to the community,” Wayne said. “It started off with a Santa and reindeer up on my roof and lights on the front of the house, and it went from there.” 

SMITH WITH MR. and Mrs. Claus’s clothesline.
Independent photo/Steve James

As years passed, the display became more elaborate. Wayne accumulated various inflatable and illuminated decorations and bought the land across from his house to extend the display. 

He said he’s taken advantage of many day-after-Christmas sales to grow his collection. He’s also made some of the decorations himself and has received a few as donations. 

The operation now stretches the length of North Pond Road near Lake Dunmore, and is filled with colorful lights, candy canes and other classic holiday characters. Wayne said he uses half a mile of extension cords and 14 timers to run the display, which begins each night at 4 p.m. and shuts off at 10 p.m. The light show adds about $20 a day to the Smiths’ electricity bill and runs the entire month of December. 

Independent photo/Steve James

As the light show has grown, so have the crowds coming by to see it. Last year on a particularly busy night, Wayne counted 189 cars coming through to see the show. His favorite memories through the years have been of the spectators that have come by, some of them from far outside Addison County. 

“I’ve had people from New York City say this is spectacular, and as good as anything they’ve seen in the city,” he said. 

Though he’s enjoyed putting on the light show for the community, 30 years is a long time and now in his eighth decade, Wayne said it’s finally time to step away from the tradition. 

SMITH CLEARS SOME snow off of an illuminated tractor.
Independent photo/Steve James

Setting up the display is an arduous process. With the help of his neighbors, Wayne spends more than three weeks each year putting the spectacle together, toiling around four or five hours each day. 

“It’s our health, our age, it’s getting to be more work than we want to put in in November,” Wayne said. 

In January, when the Smiths pack up their light show, they’ll be packing it up for good. Well, most of it. Wayne said he’ll keep some of the decorations for a smaller display on his front yard. Many of the others will go to his stepdaughter Renee Carpenter, who manages the new Aubuchon Hardware location on Route 7 in Middlebury and plans to set up a display there. 

As for the rest of the decorations, Wayne said those are ready for retirement. Some of the decorations have been around longer than this 21-year-old reporter.  

Independent photo/Steve James

The Smiths’ light show will run until the end of this month, and Wayne hopes community members get a chance to come by before the lights turn off. 

“We’ll miss a lot of friends and relatives who come by to see the lights and stop to see us,” he said. “It’s been enjoyable.”

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