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3 min Read
Published December 16, 2016

Historic Raleigh Christmas Lights Hit The National Screen

When I first step foot into Happyland, it’s like walking into the proverbial Christmas-town. There are life-sized, vintage carolers from Raleigh’s Christmas Past.

There’s an old firetruck from times of yore, lit up with twinkling red lights and driven by Santa himself. A dancing light show spins on the hand-crafted Merry-Go-Round. There’s even a cozy, crackling fire, over which a turning spit hoists a fat Chapel Hill ram in circles, perfectly cooking it for the Winter’s feast.

And also a smoke-breathing T-rex.

Actually, Happyland is an eclectic mix of Old Raleigh memories and New Raleigh creativity and imagination. So there’s little wonder that they’re appearing on the December 19th episode of the Great Christmas Light Fight!

RELATED: Happyland Christmas Lights, A Historic Raleigh Tradition.

I was fortunate enough to be on-set for the filming of the suspenseful and thrilling reveal scene. The massive crowd was Christmas-colored, with wild red hats, garland in our hair, and flashing lights around red and green sweaters. The crowd’s energy could have lit the entire display. We waited, buzzing on holiday cheer, for the sun to set–and the lights to be revealed.

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Slowly the sun sank, and black cameras on long cranes whirred around the crowd. Any minute.

“Carter Oosterhouse is coming!” the crew said. “Everyone look down the street.”

We all stopped chatting and turned to the dark road. The lights were still dark, and the sun was gone. Headlights up ahead, moving closer, sent us all cheering!

When he finally excited the car and greeted the crowd, it was finally time for the reveal! We all turned our backs. We could hear the lights flicking on behind us, but we weren’t allowed to look. We stood, silent, holding our breath. We hadn’t seen the display yet this year. We knew it would be bigger than ever before, and we couldn’t wait to see it for the first time.

It was like waiting for Santa on Christmas morning.

The countdown began. We turned, eyes wide like children.

But I can’t tell you what we saw. You’ll have to wait until December 19th when it airs!

Most of us took a few pictures with Carter, who was incredible, spirited, and fun! We also got some photos with Bobby, with Jan, and with friends we found in the crowd. A colorful hoop-dancer spun her rainbow-lit hoop against the backdrop of a million twinkle-lights that make up Happyland.

RELATED: Restoring Raleigh Christmas History: The Cross Family Display.

Amidst all this merriment, I took a somber moment to realize how easily this magical place could have not existed. The antique carolers, manger scene, and figurines are the centerpiece of Happyland and a staple from Raleigh’s Christmas Past. Once upon a time, these same decorations were visited by hundreds of onlookers every Christmas at the fondly-remembered Cross residence. My Grandmother, now in her 90’s, still talks about that old display. When I took her to Happyland to see them again, she smiled. She was seeing her youth.

When the Cross family members passed away, the antique statues were put into storage. Many were chipped, ground up, and nearly destroyed forever. But Bobby and Jan Moore rescued them, pieced them together, and restored them to their Christmas destiny. I’m certain folks from the 1960’s never expected these antiques would end up on national television.

So thank you, Bobby and Jan Moore. Now the whole country can enjoy our special Raleigh secret: Happyland Christmas Lights!

Be sure to watch on December 19th!

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  • heather


  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. All my articles.

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