Land of Lights Christmas Park closed for the 2019 season Jan. 3.
Approximately 10,000 people visited the annual attraction that incites children's wonderment and creates family memories that last a lifetime.
The expansive park was opened in 1998 by Garland and Patsy Pool. The couple met in 1964 while cruising Athens' main drag. The park is family-owned and operated. Pool said the idea originated when they were decorating their home yearly with discounted lights from Gibson's, adding yearly.
“Gibson's would put their lights on sale and we would go buy them to decorate our house,” Garland said. “When we moved back to Athens, I thought we might do a drive-through.”
Pool said their home looked like the Griswold's from the holiday favorite National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. With the drive-through idea in mind, the couple purchased a piece of land on Loop 7 and Patterson, immediately off of 175.
“We started working on putting in roads and electrical and coming up with ideas on what it should have in it,” he said.
As it grew from year to year they would use the profits to add new ideas to the display.
The couple said they loved seeing the faces of those enjoying it, and hearing the comments of what a nice time people are having.
They have had visitors from Australia and all over the world stop in to visit the park.
One unique visitor was a gentleman who toured on horseback with his three-legged dog. Over the years they have seen a Model A try to climb the steep graded hills on the property and people regain their lost love of Christmas. Visitors also comment on how much they enjoy the scriptures scattered throughout the park.
With over four million lights, the park boasts six tunnels, 14 arches, themed music, 60 themed scenes and 2,000 hand-painted cutouts.
The drive winds through about one mile of a Christmas wonderland that makes for a great activity with the children. In the end you can stop in most nights for a visit and photo with Santa, and on some special occasions Olaf.
Patsy and some of their children and grandchildren paint all of the wooden cutouts and the process of creating new ideas and installing them is an all year process. Removing the items for safe storage takes approximately two months.
Because of the steep grades they are not able to accommodate trailers, but people come in by car, truck, van and bus. The park is open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Nov. 10 through Jan. 3 every year. Saturdays are its busiest night.
People travel to Athens specifically for this annual treat. Follow them on Facebook and make sure you take the time to plan your 2020 visit. Every time you drive through you find something new or that you missed before.