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Published December 14, 2013

This Man Lights Up Raleigh: Happyland Christmas Lights, A Historic Tradition

These lights twinkle in memory of Rick Moore 1986-2004 who, in his short life, always wanted us to put up “More Lights”.

When I was a child, my grandfather helped decorate for the Raleigh Christmas parade. He also built and supplied most of the floats. My dad always decorated our house to the max. In fact, our house and the Cross’s house on New Bern Ave. were the destination places for lights in the 50’s and 60’s. I still remember laying in bed at night and watching the glow of the large blue bulbs that hung from our roof. As we grew up and got older, the decorations declined until my parents moved to Cary and all the kids were on their own. But the seed had been planted.

As an adult, I always put some lights in my yard, but not a lot. But once I got married and had my first child, things changed. I was living in a townhome in North Raleigh and I wanted my son to experience what I had when I was young so I started with, of course, one string of large blue lights around the roof. The next year, I added lots of lights and some blow up holiday decorations.

My little townhome was like a bright star in the middle of dark homes with no lights. I guess my neighbors thought “country had come to town”.

The following year, my grandmother passed away, and I bought the old homestead and restored the house. This is where the madness started. We were located down a country road, so nobody ever saw my display except family–but we loved it.

RELATED: The Raleigh Underground: An Epic Era Sealed Beneath Cameron Village.

The display grew to around 15,000 lights and blow molds. All this was in the 90’s. In 1996 when hurricane Fran blasted Raleigh, we lost the house to a fire seven days after the storm. I found the house that we are at now. The main selling points were the large porch and “ the Christmas Light potential.” Over the years the display has grown into a life of it’s own. I have been collecting decorations for many years, and some in my yard today are 25 years old. The best part: I still have the original string of blue light that my father used. They are to old to use but I keep them all the same. Lots of the displays are store-bought, but plenty of the unique displays are items that I have made. The fire truck came from a used car lot near Greenville.

The fire truck came from a used car lot near Greenville. Seen here on a Snowy day at Happy Land!
The fire truck came from a used car lot near Greenville. Seen here on a past snowy day at Happyland!

Many of my displays are historic and have interesting stories. The T-Rex, for example, used to be at a very good friend’s restaurant in Raleigh. The city told him it had to go, so I offered to let him store it at my house if I could put lights on it and the rest is history. The antique figurines were decorations at the Cross’s famous holiday display in the 1950’s. I bought them at an estate tag sale three years ago and spent many hours restoring them. There is a great video piece on these on the WRAL “Tar heel Traveler” with Scot Mason. The Ferris Wheel is my creation, built from a wire spool and trailer. The UFO is also just an oddity hatched from my mind. I believe that Christmas is more than just Christmas decorations–it is also about having fun! That is what I do for anyone who drives by. I used to give out candy canes at night and blow snow machines, but it started backing up traffic to the point that I just had to stop. Traffic is already crazy enough as it is.

I have folders with letters, cards, and notes from people that love it. Some say it has become their family tradition to come by to see the lights.

Some people tell me that they grew up seeing these lights and now they are bringing their kids by, starting a new generation of tradition. There are always people riding by trying to give me donations for the electric bill, but I have never taken any donations for that. However, every year we pick one charity and take donations on one night and one night only. This year it was The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. As for my neighbors–well, most like the display, but there will always be some that don’t like what you do.

Ultimately, I look at how many people find joy in my lights and all the smiles on the kids’ face. All the special moments with different people just makes it all worth while.

RELATED: The Video of Candid Slice at Happyland in Raleigh.

Every year there is always something special that happens here. One year a lady drove up as I handed out candy canes. She had her daughter with her and she was wearing very thick glasses, so I asked could she see the displays. She replied that she could see some, but only up close. So I brought her and her daughter into the yard and walked them to each display so she could see them. I’ll never forget the happiness and smiles on the child’s face. I wish you could just stand by the driveway and listen to the children and see their faces–it just makes all the hard work and expense worth it all.

Photo credit: Victoria Coleman
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For more Christmas delight, check out the Happyland Christmas Lights Facebook page! You can visit Happyland at: 5504 Huntingwood Dr — Corner of Penny Rd and Huntingwood Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606.

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