Dick and Dianne Brown of Greenville welcome visitors by the thousands to their winter wonderland every year, treating guests to holiday trees, whimsical characters, sweet treats, and no fewer than 100,000 brightly colored lights.
2019 marks the 26th year for the Darke County display, and never has a design been repeated from the past — each new season brings a new twist, which draws people from near and far.
Dick Brown, a former business owner and real estate appraiser, remembers when holiday preparations involved putting up just two strings of lights — one on each side of the front door.
A move to a different house sparked his interest in more lights, and the addition of two daughters only intensified that interest. Soon, Brown had pushed his display to upward of 10,000 bulbs. “There were some problems with not enough outlets,” he recalls with a smile.
The Browns even accounted for their display in the plans for their current home on Requarth Road, which includes underground electrical service along the paved driveway and a 300-foot swath that serves as a runway for Santa’s reindeer-drawn sleigh. Electricians added 200-amp service in the drawn sleigh. Electricians added 200-amp service in the garage to handle the anticipated load.
Brown says it takes a month to complete the decorating once he starts in mid-October. He starts with the tree ornaments, because arranging the group displays and laying cords for the lights must wait until lawn mowing is done for the season.
“I prefer to work at my own pace,” he says. “Sometimes I work a while in the morning and then come back outside in the afternoon or the evening.”
A 40- by 100-foot barn, which his granddaughter calls “Paw-Paw’s Christmas House,” houses all the decorations. Carefully labeled plastic totes contain lights and smaller items, and paths wind in and around the statues and larger decorations that are arranged on the concrete floor. A 50-foot counter provides space to perform any needed repairs.
The display is open for public viewing from 6 to 11 p.m. from Thanksgiving through Christmas. People can stay in their vehicles for a slow drive through the wonderland. Others accept invitations to come inside for a quick peek at Dianne’s interior decorations, which include a quaint snow village and a majestic purple tree.
“We give everybody who comes a full-size candy cane,” Dick says. “That amounted to 10,000. I gave out the traditional peppermint ones, but Dianne had more than 90 flavors to choose from.”
Some visitors come bearing homemade treats or small gifts to show their appreciation, and the Browns sometimes find ornaments or other decorations on their doorstep.
“People also want to give us money to help with the cost,” Brown says. “We don’t want anything, because this is our gift to the community.”