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Bringing ‘Night of Lights’ to life at Guido Gardens
Mary Guido carries on Christmas tradition
Guido lights photo.jpg
Mary Guido inspects one of the large iron forms that will be displayed on the grounds of Guido Gardens during the annual "Nights of Lights" held Dec. 14 through Christmas Day from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. - photo by JULIE LAVENDER/staff

Some pass down beloved ornaments and heirloom decorations to perpetuate the spirit of Christmas to the next generation. When Mary Guido inherited the family Christmas treasures, she was entrusted with more than two million lights and somewhere between 50 and 60 larger-than-life displays. 

Those Guido treasures that Mary inherited transform to become the Guido Gardens “Nights of Lights” exhibit in Metter every Christmas season. The lights come on every night beginning this coming Friday through Christmas Day, 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Visitors flock to the Gardens every year to see the stunning displays.   

Dr. Larry Guido, president of the Guido Ministerial Association, and husband to Mary, said, “We want people to see the lights and know that there is one light, the light of the world, Jesus Christ.”

Larry and Mary Guido are carrying on a tradition that Larry’s brother, the late Rev. Michael Guido, began 28 years ago after visiting Nashville, Tenn., during the Christmas holidays. 

Michael Guido, also known as “The Sower,” had a radio and television ministry that was broadcast from the Gardens in Metter. His brief, poignant messages, called “Seeds from the Sower,” were heard all over the world. 

When Rev. Guido saw the Nashville lights, he said to Statesboro’s Ellis Wood, who served on the Guido Board of Trustees, “We need to do something like that in the Gardens so we can present the true meaning of Christmas. It’s another way to win people to the Lord.”

Larry Guido said his brother was always trying to find a new way to tell the story of Jesus. 

“You don’t change the message; you change the method,” he said.

Now, Mary Guido is in charge of that “method.” With more than two million lights to display, she works almost year-round readying the displays. 

Mary begins in June, just “piddling in the warehouse,” as she calls it, taking stock of the displays and checking lights to see which ones have burned out and need replacing.

By the time late summer and early fall roll around, Mary is in full-swing in the warehouse, working usually six or so hours a day, four or five days a week. 

Many of the displays are the original ones that Rev. Michael Guido purchased for the Gardens. 

“That very first year, Michael decorated with garland and a few strands of lights,” Mary said. 

Next came iron pieces Michael Guido commissioned, adding pieces each year. Pieces like an animated hummingbird and flower, tree-climbing bears, an enormous globe of the world, a Sower tossing seeds towards the globe, a growing flower, a beautifully colored peacock, an animated fisherman and his boat, Noah’s Ark, angels, wise men, and much, much more.

“Most are the original wire forms,” Mary said, “but the crackle with lights that covered them have all fallen off.” 

Mary has meticulously and painstakingly recovered most of the forms with strands of lights or rope light. She presses the rope or strand close to the wire and uses zip-ties every couple of inches to secure it in place. Many of the pieces have taken her months to refinish. 

“You have to have a love for it, to do this. You develop that love when you see the little children that come. Many of the children that visit can’t afford to do anything else at Christmas.”

There is no cost to visit the Nights of Lights at Guido Gardens.  

Mary Guido said she had no electrical training, but rather, learned “on the job.” 

“Taking it apart, that’s how I learned how to do it,” Mary said about the difficult task of rewiring a large butterfly form. “I took it apart, painted it, and then rewired it.” 

Mary works long hours, for weeks and weeks, but said she doesn’t mind and sees it as her ministry and tribute to Michael and his wife. 

“This is part of them’” she said. “Michael and Audrey were two of the sweetest people in the world. As much as he loved the Lord, he enjoyed decorating for Christmas more than anything.”

When Michael became ill and arrangements had been made for his brother, Dr. Larry Guido, to take over the ministry, Michael had a charge for Mary. 

“He pointed his finger in my face from his hospital bed and said about the lights, ‘Don’t stop it. Keep it going.’”

Mary took the request seriously and has worked passionately for a dozen years now. 


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