Reporter/Lynchburg Bureau Chief
4:42 PM EST, December 11, 2012
Santa Claus probably doesn't have any trouble finding Bedford on Christmas Eve. It's hard to miss a retirement home with more than 65,000 lights.
The Elks National Home has been illuminated for the holiday almost every year since 1953.
"I think there was just a row of lights and a Santa and a sleigh at that time and then it gradually grew over the years," said Nellie Martin, acting general manager for the Elks National Home.
The elaborate display now covers most of the front yard. Maintenance workers spend months putting it all together.
"We've been doing this since about the 16th of September and we're just now finishing up," said Jimmy Overstreet, a groundskeeper who has assembled the light show for more than a decade.
For many families, driving through the Elks Home property is a Christmas tradition.
"We have people who come from all over the area," said Martin. "Sometimes we have bus loads of people who come from cities that are distant from Bedford."
Watching those people enjoy the show makes the months of preparation worthwhile.
"When I was growing up, we didn't have anything like this, so it really makes me feel good for kids to see it," said Overstreet. "I just hope we get to do it next year."
The national Elks organization is thinking about selling the home. If that happens, no one's quite sure what will mean for the light show.
"We've had a lot of people ask us about the lights this year, if they're going to be on again," Martin said.
The answer is yes, at least for this year.
"If the home were to change hands, it would be up to the new owner what they wanted to do," said Martin.
If someone new does take over, Elks home officials hope they'll recognize the light show's importance.
"We would hope they would chose to continue, because it is a great community tradition, but that remains to be seen," said Martin.
The lights will be turned on this Friday at 5:30 p.m. They'll be on until 10:00 p.m. every night through New Years Eve.
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