The annual Christmas lights display at TMT Farms has grown so popular, it caught the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s attention.
After months of preparation, the drive-through display will open tonight.
Bulloch County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson, along with wife Debra, son Tyler Thompson and daughter Jennifer Thompson McCranie, have been decorating their farm for well over a dozen years. The project grew to attract large crowds, and now brings over 2,000 cars on some nights, Roy Thompson said.
While not required, donations of toys, nonperishable food, pet food and money are appreciated, he said. The Thompsons began suggesting donations a few years after people began visiting the display, and last year the efforts grew to such proportions that hundreds of families were helped with food and children’s toys. Thompson said local food banks reported being stocked until summer from foods collected by the Christmas light event, which lasts until after Christmas.
The spectacular sight has become a state-wide attraction, he said. “I got a call from the Atlanta Journal the other day” regarding an article.
The Thompsons have met people from all over the state and neighboring states who drove miles to see the sights.
Lights are everywhere. Animated figures and inflatables cover every aspect of Christmas – the fantasy of Santa as well as the birth of Christ; from snowmen to wise men. “We have doubled the number of lights and inflatables,” he said.
The holiday decorations mingle with the unique year-round features of the farm. A faux Western town includes a small chapel used for weddings; a country home and “livery stable” used for gatherings, tee pees and replicas of historic Bulloch County and Statesboro businesses such as Snooky’s restaurant and Henry’s store.
Scattered among these are antique tractors, farm implements, old church steeples, a moonshine still (yes, a real one, but inoperable) and other historical memorabilia including antique fire trucks.
Visitors drive through the Thompson’s property, meandering past the family’s personal homes (decorated gaily as well) and circle around to leave. Many people park and walk around, enjoying the fellowship as they hand over bags and boxes of donated items.
The Thompsons welcome all, but ask that visitors respect their home. In past years vandals and thieves tried to put a damper on the joy but the Thompsons, as well as the community, rallied and replaced stolen or damaged items. Tighter security measures are now in place, but the family-friendly atmosphere remains inviting.
Thompson said each night, the first car will be allowed onto the property around 5:30 or 6 p.m., “when it is dark enough for them to see the lights.”
Lights begin to be switched off around 11:30 p.m. and the display is closed at midnight, he said.
TMT Farms is located at 16710 Old River Road South.
Another popular Christmas lights display that attracts visitors from all over the region is Guido Gardens Nights of Lights celebration.
The walk-through display is open from 6-9 p.m. nightly Dec. 15-25, and admission is free.
With hundreds of thousands of lights, sculptures and other attractions, Guido Gardens is located in Metter at 600 North Lewis Street.
Herald reporter Holli Deal; Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.