Disrespectful and even dangerous behavior by “a few bad apples” has affected the whole barrel of fun at the TMT Farms Christmas display. While the attraction remains open, people will no longer be able to walk around the grounds, said owner Roy Thompson.
Visitors can still drive through the acres of lights, sculptures, inflatables and more, but Thompson and his wife, Deborah, drew the line after a few unpleasant and surprising incidents took place on the first night the farm opened.
Not only have people scattered trash and trespassed in areas fenced off from the public, but Roy Thompson said people have also been seen smoking marijuana near the pond right beside his house. Drop cords have been unplugged, and one woman and her son were found at the Thompsons’ private family swimming pool that is covered for the winter.
Someone caught the child on the pool cover, and the mother was just about to step on the pool cover when she was stopped, he said.
The woman was angered that her son had been “called down.”
“She said she was told we had ice skating here and that is where she thought it was,” he said.
The pool was fenced off but not inaccessible.
“What if someone fell through that pool cover and drowned?” he said. “It is a liability.”
There was similar trouble last year, and in 2017, teenage vandals slashed an inflatable reindeer in Tyler Thompson’s yard. He and sister Jennifer McCranie and their families also live on the property on Old River Road North that is TMT Farms.
The vandals also destroyed mannequins that were part of a historic display. In addition to the holiday decorations that take six months to assemble, there are replica storefronts of past Bulloch County landmark businesses, a western town, countless classic vehicles, antique farm equipment and more. Two teens were arrested shortly afterward, and a third was apprehended later in the year. He is still serving time, Thomson said.
The troubles only seem to have snowballed over the past few years. In the “corrals,” where people were once allowed to park, it appeared that some visitors “cleaned out their cars” of trash, he said.
“I have been picking up bottles and beer cans.”
In 2016, someone entered the property and stole dozens of toys that had been donated for children in need. While there is no charge for visiting TMT Farms, donations of toys, nonperishable foods and pet foods are welcomed. The Thompsons and volunteers distribute the donated items to food banks and less fortunate families in the area.
Some have expressed complaints through social media about the attraction being closed to foot traffic, but it is necessary, he said. The ban hasn’t adversely affected traffic; 1,132 cars came through Thanksgiving night and 1,364 cars the following night.
What bothers Thompson most is the blatant disrespect shown not only to TMT Farms but to others who enjoy it, he said.
The negative incidents won’t stop the annual monthlong event, however. The display will be open from 5:30 p.m. to midnight through Dec. 29.
Deborah Thompson said she is even more encouraged to continue the tradition.
“Satan is trying to fan the flames” and stop the celebration of Christ and what the holiday stands for, but the challenges do not “quench our thirst” for continuing with the event for the community, she said.
The Thompsons ask visitors to be mindful that the farm is their home and to “please show respect” as they enjoy the sights.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.