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The warmth and glitter of Christmas

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The Christmas spirit stretches into the distance on Pine View Drive in Piankatank Shores at Hartfield. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

“The kids squealed when we turned the corner,” said Beverly Lane of Locust Hill. Lane had been folding clothes when her daughter, Genii Powell, invited her to ride around and look at Christmas lights. Their trip reached a climax on Pine View Drive in Piankatank Shores at Hartfield, where residents have teamed up to create a Christmas neighborhood. Their houses resemble gingerbread cottages festooned for “Festivus.”

Multi-colored lights twinkle like gum drops, Santa’s sleigh heads skyward pulled by reindeer, and Christmas music softly plays. It’s a combination that’s sure to make memories for 2-year-old Maci Powell and Kaydence Congelton. 

They all got out of their SUV to get an up-close look at the many decorations. “If you’re doing it by yourself it’s no fun,” said Alden Griffin who, with his wife Monica, have created elaborate scenes. “When everybody gets into it, it reflects on the neighborhood,” he said.

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Fire keeps the cold away for Pine View Drive neighbors who share the delight of decorating for Christmas in Piankatank Shores Subdivision at Hartfield. From left they are Meredith Powell, Michael Hess, Kristina DeWalt, Alden Griffin and Jonathon Powell. Not pictured is Monica Griffin. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

Next door, Michael Hess and Kristina DeWalt are celebrating their first Christmas in the neighborhood. Hess’ family always decorated when he was growing up, and he is carrying on that tradition. “After we put up something, we start looking for something else,” he said. Would you believe their indoor Christmas tree has 900 lights on it?

Next to Hess lives Jonathon Powell, his wife Meredith and their 3-year-old son Xander. In their front yard, neighbors gather around a blazing fire, while children play on swings. “The bottom line is that we do it for the fun . . . the kids,” said Jonathon. 

Across the street is another house, decorated with assistance of the Griffin-Hess-Powell trio.

Christmas is a year-around focus for these men, who scour thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets for dead strings of lights, or discarded decorations. “There are probably only a half-dozen new things in these displays,” said Hess, who found old-style icicle tinsel this year. “After we put up something, we start looking for something else . . . it’s always evolving.”

Jonathon Powell found a couple strings of lights placed on a dumpster—lights that didn’t work for someone who knew they were too good to throw away. They became “donors” and were used for parts.

“It’s the thrill of the hunt,” said Alden Griffin who, like Powell and Hess, knows how to revive the broken tiny twinkle lights.

The real “magic” comes when these dormant bulbs are transformed into an extravaganza that warms the cold dark nights until 9 p.m.

“It’s all part of the excitement of Christmas,” said Hess.

Find this enchanted neighborhood by taking Route 629 at Hartfield to Coach Point Road, and then right onto Pine View Drive.

posted 12.19.2012

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