There’s a glow out on Old River Road North, and it lures people bearing gifts. Sound familiar? No, it’s not the wise men visiting Baby Jesus, but in a sense, the spirit is the same.
For years, Roy and Deborah Thompson have decorated their property, Triple T Ranch, for Christmas. But as the number of visitors grew each year, so did the displays, and since visitors bring gifts of canned goods and nonperishable foods for the less fortunate, the project is twofold; it spreads the spirit of Christmas and helps those in need.
“We’ve already had 600 vehicles come through,” Roy Thompson said Wednesday. The display had only been open since Thanksgiving and had not been advertised. The annual display has become so popular, people began calling for directions before Thanksgiving and have come from other counties, including Chatham, he said.
“I didn’t realize people enjoy Christmas lights as much as they do,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of lights, with inflatables, antique cars, an old moonshine still and other attractions help make up the unique event. Thompson has, over the years, created a small Western town with a livery stable, chapel, and other buildings as a personal project that reflects his love for the Old West, cowboys and Indians; this year the display includes a trading post/land survey office/gun shop.
“We’ve added a good bit,” he said.
On Dec. 17, the Wiggins Family from Bible Baptist Church will perform on the new stage in front of the trading post, Santa and Mrs. Claus, elves and more will be present to greet visitors.
Admission is free, but the Thompsons ask visitors to either make a monetary donation or nonperishable food donation. The goods are given to needy families in the Portal area and to the Portal Food Bank, and the money is used for gift certificates for meats, he said.
“We fed 60 families last year,” he said. "Then we gave to the Portal Food Bank. It’s a ministry for us.”
He said 6,271 vehicles, including some buses, passed through the Thompson lights display last year. Those cars brought about 40,000 visitors “who abundantly gave food and monetary contributions,” he said.
Directions to the Thompson’s place from Statesboro are travel about nine miles from Statesboro on Lakeview Road, turning left onto Old River Road North, then going 4.3 miles.
The property is on the right, and visitors are asked to drive on in and browse, sharing the Christmas spirit by fellowshipping with others, sharing donated food items and spreading the word, Thompson said.
The lights go on at dark and the display is closed around 11:30 p.m. nightly.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.