A spontaneous idea becomes a beloved tradition bringing Christmas joy to multitudes.
It was quite spontaneous, this idea that surfaced in a conversation among family and friends around the dinner table. But, that spontaneity dissolved in no time at all and the idea took on a life of its own.
This is the seventh year the McCurley and Seabolt families have provided the “Christmas on Dixie” light display that brings thousands of people to Madison-Morgan County each holiday season.
The concept was born when Shane Seabolt commented to his friends and neighbors, Scott McCurley and Sandy McCurley, who are siblings, that his collection of giant Christmas air-inflated characters had grown and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to put them in his front yard as he had been doing. “And we said why not put them out here in our yard on the corner, because it’s a bigger spot?” Sandy recalled. “So we added a few of our own, and we had maybe 20 blow-ups that first year. People started riding by slowly and looking at them, then they started stopping and getting out and walking around. So, the next year we got more and each year we added some. We have over 100 blow-ups now.”
Open nightly from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, the event is reminiscent of the similarly-named “Christmas in Dixie” that was in Crawfordville from 1982 until 1997. Scott, Sandy and Shane said they used to visit the Crawfordville display and remember it well. Theirs isn’t as large and has a completely different style; and foremost, they were never trying to recreate the Crawfordville family’s holiday event. “We put it up that first year just for people to drive by and see,” Shane said. “But people started stopping and walking up, which surprised us, and we started talking to them, and it just kind of grew from there.”
However, their display’s name was inspired by the Crawfordville holiday event, with the only difference being the preposition. “We were trying to think of what to call it, and I remembered Christmas in Dixie, and said ‘We’re on Dixie Highway, so why don’t we call ours Christmas on Dixie,’” Scott explained.
In order to have everything ready by Thanksgiving, the 11 members of the McCurley and Seabolt families begin the set up the first weekend of November. “We watch the UGA football games while we’re working,” Sandy said, to which Scott added, “We need help. If there’s anyone who wants to volunteer, just come on by (on Saturdays) and we can put you to work.”
They have twice as many “dead” air-blown decorations as they do working ones, so anyone experienced in repairing such blowers would be welcomed. The thousands of lights and several hundred extension cords used to be kept stored in a chicken house until they built a shed two years ago, Sandy said. It takes a lot of time to make sure all the lights and blowers work, and to set up the inflatable decorations. When asked how they accomplished the feat, Scott dryly responded, “All we do is move things up 4-inches or over 2-inches.” Sandy, the intended recipient of the joke, laughed and explained that she strives to make sure the giant inflatables are visible from all angles and not blocked by the one in front of it.
Even though they installed freestanding outlets across the yard a couple of years ago, there are still “extension cords everywhere.” With a hundred giant air-filled and lighted decorations packed on one and a half acres of land along with the stakes that keep them from falling over and the extension cords and large crowds of people milling about, the place could be a hazard for children who run through the display. Sandy says they stress repeatedly for children not to run, but the small ones become so excited they can’t seem to stop. That worries her, but the excited children make it all worthwhile, Shane said.
“I love seeing the kids’ smiling faces,” he said, a smile slowly breaking out on his face as the memories surfaced. “You can tell some of them are underprivileged and it’s not something they get to go do often. That’s why I’m glad we do it. And we had a 90-year-old lady who came and she sat in Santa’s lap for the first time in her life. It was great to see her face, too, and know that we provided that opportunity for her.”
The display runs them thousands of dollars each year, they said, most of which is spent on the electricity bill and required insurance coverage. Other expenses include the blowers, lights, extension cords and the inflatables sometimes need to be repaired or replaced. They do not charge an admission price, but accept donations, which they said help offset some of the costs.
Add in the hours spent each night manning the display, lining up activities such as Santa Claus visits and face painters, and keeping track of the weather, and you slowly begin to realize how much the McCurley’s and Seabolt’s have invested to bring Christmas joy to all.
“It’s a lot of fun, a labor of love,” Sandy said.
IF YOU GO
What: Christmas On Dixie
Where: 2300 Dixie Highway, Madison, Ga.
Located on the corner of Dixie Hwy. and Wilson Rd.
When: Open Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve
5:30 - 9 p.m. weeknights and 5:30 - 10 p.m. on weekends
(The lights will stay on all night Christmas Eve)
NEW HOURS for 2021--Open every night from December 16-December 26!
Santa visits: Santa is scheduled to be there Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14, 21. Check the “Christmas on Dixie” Facebook page for notices of changes to this schedule.
More info: Will be closed for times of inclement weather such as rain or high winds – check “Christmas On Dixie” Facebook page for updated posts before you visit.
Snacks: Hot chocolate and marshmallows to roast over an open fire pit are available free of charge on weekends. No other foods are available, so the family encourages you to eat dinner before you visit.
Admission: Admission is free, monetary donations are welcomed to help with expenses.
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Story by Lynn Hobbs, photos by Leila Scoggins and contributed by Christmas on Dixie, published in the November/December 2019 edition of Lakelife magazine.