The annual drive-thru Christmas lights display at TMT Farms that attracts thousands of visitors each year is set to open Thursday at sunset on Thanksgiving Day.
New additions, design changes and thousands more lights mean a different experience than before, display founder Roy Thompson hopes will bring more visitors than ever this year to the month-long attraction.
There is no fee to enjoy the most Christmas lights and decorations in one place south of Atlanta, but volunteers will accept donations of nonperishable foods, new, unwrapped toys, pet food and cash to help those in need in the community, he said.
“Pet food is taken to the local animal shelter and further distributed,” Thompson said.
The toys are given to families who could not afford to purchase much, if anything, for their children for Christmas, and the food is collected by local food banks and distributed to those who need it, he said.
“Cash donations are used for gift cards” to help with families in emergency situations with utilities and other needs.
TMT Farms, an expansive acreage on Old River Road North near Rocky Ford Road, has been a regional attraction for well more than 20 years, drawing visitors from all across Georgia and surrounding states.
Hundreds of thousands of lights, lighted sculptures and holiday decorations mixed with antique vehicles, tractors and equipment; fire trucks and replicas of Bulloch County’s historical and iconic businesses make the drive-thru-only tour an enjoyable tradition for many.
Also, there is also a replica Western town.
Last year, the effort resulted in 112,000 pounds of nonperishable foods collected, “six trailers that are six by 12 feet and eight feet deep” of pet food and seven such trailers filled with toys, Thompson said.
New scenes this year include a lighted football field with goal posts, the original ones from Portal High School, donated this year, he said.
Another donor gave a 100-foot flagpole that will sport “a four-foot eagle, a humongous American flag and a Georgia Southern flag.” Thompson said the flagpole is possibly the largest in the county.
There are additions to the angel and steeple collections, and many new blow-up and sculpted decorations, he said.
Thompson, his wife Deborah, adult children Jennifer McCranie and Tyler Thompson and their families work year-round to bring the annual event to the community. He said taking down the display takes as long as putting it up.
“We enjoy doing this and appreciate what everyone does,” he said.
However, the thoughtless actions of some hamper the joy. Littering is always a problem along county roads, but during the lights display days, the issue becomes even more distressing, he said.
Over the past five years, vandalism has led to the destruction of 31 out of 35 mannequins that were a part of the holiday display. Vandals have slashed blow-ups and damaged other areas, and people passing through left dirty diapers, beer cans, food containers and other trash, according to Thompson. One young man served four years in prison for destroying mannequins, blow-ups and other decorations.
The Thompson family was forced to limit the tour to drive-thru only because visitors were invading private areas and climbing or walking in areas not intended for pedestrian traffic.
“We ask that people stay in their cars and keep their trash until it can be placed in a trash can,” he said.
Bathrooms are available by the road.
The 2022 TMT Christmas Lights Drive-Thru opens Thursday night and runs nightly (weather permitting) through Dec. 27. The display closes at midnight.
They are located at 16710 Old River Road North, Statesboro.
Directions: Option A – travel from Statesboro on Lakeview Road about 9.5 miles, turning left onto Old River Road North. Drive 4.3 miles and look for the lights on the right.
Option 2 – From Statesboro, travel out Hwy. 80 West, which turns into Hwy. 25. Turn right at Rocky Ford Road, drive five miles to the second paved crossroads and turn right onto Old River Road North. TMT Farms is a mile down the road on the left.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 243-7815.