Thanks to help from off-duty law enforcement officers and other concerned citizens, Statesboro’s TMT Farms will reopen to foot traffic on a trial basis, starting Saturday.
An outpouring of support and offers to volunteer as security convinced Roy and Deborah Thompson to try once again to allow visitors to walk around at the TMT Farms Christmas lights display. Last week, they limited the tour to drive-through only after, on the first night they opened, people ignored barriers, scattered trash, unplugged drop cords and climbed onto displays.
So many people were outraged and disappointed over the loss of being able to walk around, the Thompsons were overwhelmed with offers to provide “citizen and professional security,” Roy Thompson said. The volunteers are asked to wear orange safety vests or shirts to be visible as security.
The re-opening of the farm to pedestrians is “on a trial basis,” and is contingent upon the success of voluntary security and the public behaving themselves, he said.
Thanksgiving night was the first night the Old River Road North attraction was open. That night, people scattered dirty diapers, beer bottles, cans, cigarette butts, food wrappers and more all around the three family homes nestled among the highly-decorated acres.
Some climbed on top expensive and delicate displays such as a lighted Cinderella carriage in one yard, while a woman and her son climbed over a small fence and said they intended to “ice skate” on Thompson’s family swimming pool, which is covered for the winter, he said. “We were also told someone saw people smoking weed” next to the pond adjacent to Thompson’s own home, he said.
In recent years, the family has also experienced vandalism and theft during the month they opened.
For 25 years, the family has spent their own money and time to set up the holiday attraction. Last year 45,000 cars came through, more than double the amount a few years back, he said. The family spends 24 weeks preparing for the month-long event, and while there is no charge, visitors donate nonperishable food, toys, pet food and money, all of which are distributed to are families in need.
The display includes several acres of fields and woodlands covered in strings of lights, colorful motion lights, inflatable figures, Nativities and other holiday scenes intermingled with a life-size replica Western town, barns, grain bins, antique farm implements, classic cars and storefront replicas of several historical Bulloch County landmarks.
If anyone wishes to volunteer as security,” just show up in orange,” Thompson said. “If you see something, say something.”
Several local motorcycle groups have also volunteered, and one will be on site Saturday, when the display opens at dusk, he said.
TMT Farms, located at 16710 Old River Road North in Statesboro, opens each night through Dec, 29 from around 5:30 p.m. until it closes at midnight.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.