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The gift of giving
TMT Farms collects donations for needy while dazzling with Christmas display
122314 THOMPSONS DONATIONS-4
Roy and Deborah Thompson wave to visitors and thank them for donations Tuesday during their family's annual Christmas lights extravaganza. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Hundreds of area residents will enjoy Christmas today, thanks to a local family whose efforts to spread holiday cheer also help those in need.

Thousands of cars have passed through TMT Farms off Old River Road North this month as people visit to view the elaborate lights display created by Roy and Deborah Thompson and their family. The display is free, but donations of food, toys and money left by visitors mean several families in need won’t go hungry or without toys for their kids today.

The TMT Farms Christmas exhibit began eight years ago when the Thompsons first decorated several acres on the family farm. As interest grew, so did the display — and donations of nonperishable foods began flooding the drop-off point, Roy Thompson said.

This year, he expects over 20,000 visitors to drive through the holiday wonderland, which takes people down meandering dirt lanes through oak woods and a faux Western village Thompson created himself.

There are strings of lights everywhere, along with inflatable Christmas characters, antique farm equipment, lighted sculptures, Nativity scenes, classic fire trucks, a moonshine still and Native American teepees, he said.

On some recent nights, cars lined up along Old River Road as visitors waited to view the sights. A trailer used to store donated foods and toys has been emptied and refilled several times, with the food being used by local food banks and delivered to families facing tight budgets and lean pantries, he said.

Inclement weather hasn’t deterred visitors.

“People are just pouring out there,” he said. “The weather isn’t stopping anybody.”

The holiday lights display will continue nightly until New Year’s Eve, and donations of food after today still will be distributed to those in need throughout the county.

The display and food collections could not succeed without the volunteers who have helped with the efforts, Thompson said. Several local volunteers, including local pastor John Long, Portal-area advocate Diane Lewis and Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner, have taken turns helping. Several local students have volunteered as well, he said.

“This is a ministry for us,” he said. “People come from counties all over, which pleases us.”

On some nights, cars lined up for a mile and a half and people waited up to an hour to drive through, he said.

The annual display has grown more each year, and this year, about 35 percent more lights were added. The popularity of the display is due to “word of mouth” as people tell others about the spectacular Christmas experience, Thompson said.

“It’s a blessing for us for people to come, and the blessing is spread to others,” he said.

TMT Farms is located at 16658 Old River Road North. Drivers coming from Statesboro will take Lakeview Road to Old River Road North, turn left, and drive just over 4 miles to see the farm on the right. The glow of the lights, as well as displays of antique fire trucks, will be clearly visible from the highway, and drivers will turn into the farm’s driveway and travel along the dirt road through the display and back out again.

Donations are not required but are appreciated, Thompson said.

 

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

 

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