A family tradition for many is to drive around and look at Christmas lights.
There is something magical about drinking hot chocolate and seeing the night light shine so bright with displays that range from the simple to the extraordinary.
Sunnyside, a subdivision off Hillsboro Road between Brentwood and the Grassland community, is one place that falls on the extraordinary side. Beginning with a light display of 10,000 lights and a few figures has grown to encompass almost an entire street.
Williamson County resident Bill Minneci is responsible for the light display.
“We moved to Brentwood in November of 1981 and started putting up the display in 1982 with about 10,000 lights and a few figures. My son BJ was my partner in designing and putting up the display until his death (in a car accident) in 1993. This is my 34th year,” said Minneci.
What started with just a few figures grew as neighbors enlisted Minneci to add a few figures to their yard. Now eight homes are decorated for the season and all as a remembrance to his son, BJ. Preparations for the light show begin in September.
“I go over all of the 350 plus figures to check their lights and retape the lights as necessary. I start in September and it usually takes me about a month. Then I start putting up the display the 1st of November and it takes about 10 days to do all the perimeter and driveway lights, then comes the figures, followed by the electrical. After all that is done I proceed to the neighbor’s yards and that is usually a 4-day job. For the last couple of years, my nephew assists me on Sundays to help and my brother has come to help for the 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.”
And exactly how many lights do you see when you visit the display?
“I have around 70,000 lights on the figures and an estimate based on the watts used comes in with a total of 120,000 to 130,000 lights. But, I have added in a few thousand LED lights, the watts used isn’t as good a predictor as in the past. This year, due to the lack of rain, I’ve deleted pounding in about 80 stakes which eliminated about 5,000 lights.”
Minneci shared with us this is his last year to decorate the eight homes on his street.
“Next year will be my last year the 35th. This is the last year for doing 8 houses. Next year it will be just the 2 main houses. After that, I will always put out a few of my favorite displays, but not the perimeter, driveway and house lights.”
Over the years, Minneci has kept track of visitors to his light display saying that he could easily have a thousand cars a night drive by his home. On his blog, he documents the visitors he spoke to and where they traveled from with travelers coming from over 30 states including Hawaii and Alaska. There were even visitors from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Germany, Russia, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Guatemala, China, India, and Brazil.
What Minneci will miss most about hosting the light display is meeting all the visitors, he says.
“I’m looking for other Christmas light lovers to take some of these off my hands,” added Minneci.
If you go, Sunnyside Lights is located at 1956 Sunnyside Drive, Brentwood. The light display began on Thanksgiving evening and continues until New Year’s Day. Santa will be making appearances each evening beginning on Friday, December 17 through Friday, December 23. Sunnyside Christmas Lights also accepts donations for the Shrine Hospitals for Children. They received over $8,000 in donations last year. Follow Sunnyside Christmas Lights on Facebook for the latest updates.