'Lights at the Elks Home' celebrates 65 years

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Every year since 1953, the English Meadows Elks Home Campus in Bedford has been an anchor attraction to the town, which calls itself the "Christmas Capital of Virginia".

The "Lights at the Elks Home" have drawn thousands of visitors from all across the country, thanks in part to a stunning display of bright Christmas lights and decorations spread across its buildings and yard.

Cars and buses packed full of people come in droves to see the lights and be a part of what's become tradition in Bedford.

"People don't feel like their Christmas has begun until they come through English Meadows Home Campus to see the lights with their family, with their friends, and with their church family," said Sharon Jones, activities director at Elk Homes.

Putting up the lights is no easy task. In fact, the process begins months in advance beginning in September! This year proved to be especially difficult due to a soggy fall, but that didn't stop groundskeeper David Cirre and his crew from getting it all done in time.

Like a chef proudly watching his guests react to the meal he has tirelessly prepared, Cirre looks forward to the first night of lights every year to see all his hard work pay off.

"When I see all the crowds of people looking out the windows and driving through, especially that first night when they light them up. People all over the porch, just you can tell the amazement on their faces and that really, really makes it all worth while," grounds keeper David Cirre said.

The Christmas decorations don't stop outside. Inside the Elks Home you'll find 51 Christmas trees each individually decorated by residents, families, and local organizations and businesses.

This year the Elks Home has opened its doors to the public through an Open House to see the halls of Christmas decorations.

Decorating the house and serving the community is something Jones says is important to the residents each year.

"I love decorating for the residents to see their faces. The residents love to sit on the front porch and see the people go through and wave. They say they feel like Santa Claus for the community, providing this for them," Jones said.