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Lights display a ‘labor of love’ for Stockbridge resident

Valentino McDowell spends nearly three months working on his Christmas lights display for his home, left and right, on Walt Stephens Road. New this year to the display, center, are several star lights. McDowell had help from his family Gloria Bennett and J’Den Murray, 2, to create the large blinking stars that are part of the lights display.

Valentino McDowell spends nearly three months working on his Christmas lights display for his home, left and right, on Walt Stephens Road. New this year to the display, center, are several star lights. McDowell had help from his family Gloria Bennett and J’Den Murray, 2, to create the large blinking stars that are part of the lights display.

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New this year to the display are several star lights. Valentino McDowell had help from his family Gloria Bennett and J’Den Murray, 2, to create the large blinking stars that are part of a large lights display at his Walt Stephens home. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

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Blinking lights in all different colors are on display at Valentino McDowell’s Walt Stephens home. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

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Hundreds of strands of lights make a huge display of Christmas lights on Walt Stephens Road. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

STOCKBRIDGE — Valentino McDowell is serious about his Christmas lights.

Every September the Stockbridge resident begins putting together displays that will light up his yard for the holiday season.

“This is a labor of love,” McDowell said. “The creative part is key for me.”

And creative he gets.

Using household items like tomato baskets to make the several small trees or gutter piping to make the larger Christmas trees, ideas are swirling around in McDowell’s head for most of the year.

“He has a specific plan as to where he wants to put things,” partner Gloria Bennett said. “Once the vision is there, it’s all him.”

The lights go live on Thanksgiving night and are plugged in every evening until New Year’s Day. Months prior, though, McDowell is busy hand building each item and stringing lights in what his family has dubbed “Santa’s shop.”

“I come home from work and I’m headed out there,” he said.

His family gets in on the action, too, some days. This year, Bennett and their son J’Den Murray, 2, helped put together the stars, which are new to the display.

“J’Den’s out there helping daddy with his tools,” Bennett said.

McDowell’s yard display started about seven years ago when he saw another resident’s display.

“I got encouraged when I saw it it. There were no other homes in the area that had lights,” he said.

He said the first year was just a small little display of lights.

Every year since, more and more of his yard has become a canvas for blinking lights, Christmas trees, stars and messages like “season’s greetings.”

To make sure the display is ready to go in time for the Thanksgiving deadline, starting in October, McDowell takes nearly every Friday off, then in November he takes a weeks vacation to finish his creations.

Now with his family surrounding him, McDowell said “it has intensified my love of the lights.”

Neighbors have come to expect something different from McDowell every year too. This year, he was still constructing several of his pieces when a neighbor stopped by to ask about the lights.

“I hadn’t started putting anything out yet because I was still working on them,” McDowell said. “They wanted to know when I was going to start putting things out.”

Both McDowell and Bennett said it’s nice to see people slowing down to look at the lights and enjoying them.

“This is a tradition now,” McDowell said.

The light display is located on Walt Stephens Road near Spivey Road. Residents can see the lights until New Year’s Day when the display comes down.