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Family born to be bright

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Family born to be bright

The Fleming family from top left, Kayla, Maggie, Renee Fleming, Stacy Fleming, and Brandon, stand with siblings Gracie, Andrew, and Brittany, bottom left to right, in front of their home on Lost Tree Trail in Athens,Ga., Sunday night Dec. 21, 2008. The family's Christmas display which features lights timed to music, won the Athens Banner-Herald's holiday lights contest voted by readers.

    ATHENS, Ga. — It took Stacy Fleming a week and a half, 33,000 individual lights, a second set of circuit breakers and an electrician’s license to install the holiday light display outside his home at 220 Lost Tree Trail off Whit Davis Road.
    Despite the extra work it piles on him during the holidays, Fleming wouldn’t give up the chance to light up his neighborhood for anything, he said. It’s a family tradition that is as much a part of Christmas as family get-togethers, pageants or Santa.
    ‘‘I think it started up in Habersham County with my grandfather,’’ Fleming said. ‘‘He would put decorations on the ceilings, on all the light fixtures. The house would just be covered for when people came over. That’s what I remember about Christmases as a kid.
    ‘‘My mom does lights. My brother does lights. We’re just light people,’’ he said.
    This year, Fleming celebrated that family tradition with gusto, earning him first place in the Athens Banner-Herald’s holiday lights competition.
    Readers were asked to send in photos of the best Christmas light displays in their neighborhoods.
    Then about 500 readers voted at on their favorites. Out of the six nominees, Fleming’s home was the clear winner, garnering almost 40 percent of the votes cast.
    Fleming didn’t know his home had been entered in the contest until someone called to tell him he had won.
    A neighbor must have nominated him for the honor, he said.
    ‘‘That’s all right,’’ Fleming said with a huge grin on his face when he looked up the poll results at OnlineAthens.
    In addition to working on his home’s light display, Fleming plays a big part in lighting up downtown Athens for Christmas.
    As an electrician for the county, he is responsible for stringing the lights on the Christmas tree outside City Hall and making sure the tree doesn’t short-circuit downtown Athens’ electrical infrastructure.
    After working behind the scenes for more than 20 years helping Santa light the tree, he’s unofficially nicknamed himself Sparky, the Christmas Elf.
    While Fleming always has been a big proponent of the Christmas cheer and holiday decorations, he amped up his display this year - adding about 10,000 more lights than he has had in the past.
    The centerpiece of his yard usually is a Christmas tree made of lights that flashes along to holiday music he plays on outdoor speakers; everything else about the display changes annually, he said.
    He hasn’t even packed up this year’s lights, but already is working on plans for Christmas 2009. He said he will hit the stores next weekend to pick up discounted lights for next year.
    Fleming will start taking down this year’s lights Jan. 2. Until then, Fleming, his wife, Renee, and their six children welcome spectators to come see their light show, which is on for about two hours every night starting at 6:30 p.m.
    The family also will be collecting canned goods for Winterville First Baptist Church’s Christmas food drive, and passers-by can place donations in a collection box near the front of the yard, Fleming said.

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