Some people measure their Christmas spirit by the amount of money spent on presents. At least four residents of Martinez and Evans measure their Christmas spirit in megawatts.
Thousands of homes in Columbia County are festively decorated with Christmas lights, but few take their displays to the extent of the O'Neal, Duvall, Kinner and Ernce families, whose homes have become full-blown attractions.
Robert O'Neal began putting up Christmas lights at his home on Flintrock Way, just off Flowing Wells Road, eight years and has inspired many of his neighbors to follow suit.
Now, a good portion of the yards on Flintrock Way brightly donned with lighted Santas, reindeer, snowmen, manger scenes and much more. O'Neal said that he personally has thousands of lights that cost thousands of dollars, and he plans to continue adding each year.
The section of road in front of O'Neal's home has become part of an unofficial Christmas decorations tour stop for many motorists.
"The last week before Christmas there's no telling how many cars will come by," O'Neal said. "Last year, I sat out front of my house to kill some time and started counting the number of cars that drove by. I gave up after I counted a hundred in less than an hour."
Cutouts depicting a quartet of caroling mice stand in front of the Kinner family's home on Raintree Drive.
Photo by Donnie Fetter
O'Neal said the lights displays are a community effort and feels no sense of competition with other Flintrock Way residents.
"We all help each other out," he said.
The opposite is true for Carl Duvall and three of his neighbors on the 300 block of McCormick Road, just off Old Evans Road.
Duvall said that he and his neighbors enjoy a friendly competition of trying literally to outshine each other.
"They'll get something new, and I tell my wife, 'Honey, I can't let them outdo me,"' he said. "By the time Christmas is here, all of our wives are mad at us because we've spent so much money on decorations."
Between him and his neighbors, Duvall estimates there are close to 100,000 Christmas lights illuminating their homes and yards.
He said he hopes more homeowners on his street will join in and make the displays even bigger attractions than they already are.
"My goal is to have my road like it was in Crawfordville," he said. "We miss Crawfordville so much."
A Santa cutout stands in front of Dannie Ernce's home on Dennis Drive.
Photo by Donnie Fetter
Unlike Duvall, Dannie Ernce's home at 622 Dennis Drive in Martinez definitely stands out. Though some homes surrounding his are decorated, none are done to the extent of Ernce's, who began putting up lights and props in October.
Ernce, who makes all his own yard decorations, has about 15,000 lights and such displays as Snoopy driving a sleigh, Santa taking a nap in a doghouse and white lighted swans swimming in a pool of blue lights.
"I stared out modestly back in 1988 or '89, and I try to add to it a little bit every year, and it's grown to what I've got out there now," he said. "I've already started trying to figure out what I can do for next year."
For Catherine Kinner of 4053 Raintree Drive in Martinez, making Christmas displays is a family affair.
"We order these yard art patterns, get the paper and buy the wood, then we trace it onto the wood and cut it out," Kinner said about herself, her husband, Robert, and their children, Nicki, 13, and Robert Jr., 15. "We've got a few projects we've done like that."
Among her displays are plywood cutouts of ice-skating penguins, mice, a skiing Santa, snowmen and another Santa wearing an outfit painted in the colors of the American flag.
Robert and Michele O'Neal stand with their son Patrick, 8, in front of their house on Flintrock Way. Most of their neighbors also
decorate their homes.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I love doing it," Kinner said. "The patriotic Santa took us from start to finish a week. It's so relaxing and peaceful that you can do a lot of thinking."
Each home also offers something extra for their neighbors.
Santa Claus makes visits to Flintrock Way and Kinner's home on the weekends. Ernce has set up outdoor speakers pumping out popular holiday tunes from Alvin and the Chipmunks, Elvis Presley, Ray Stevens and others each night. Duvall played host to an outdoor Christmas party for his neighbors with hot chocolate and caroling.
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