“The bottom line is that I want our presentation to be not only a source of joy and happiness for others, but even more so a subtle or not so subtle reminder of what it is we are actually celebrating in the first place – CHRISTmas,” Lt. Col. Bryan Lake said about his annual Lights-On-Lakewood-At-Mirror Lake holiday display. “We are so glad others can enjoy it. Come and see.”
Lt. Col. Bryan Lake remembers growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, and celebrating the Christmas holiday season with his father, mother and siblings.
It was a joyous time.
“Growing up, my family was always big on holiday decorations,” Lake, 45, said. “We always put out a lot of lights and also enjoyed riding around to look at the homes of others. It was much more modest then, but ours had more lights than the average house. There was always something magical about that time of year.”
The joy of the holiday season dimmed, Lake said, with the death of his mother when Lake was 14 and all the more years later with the tragic death of his father.
“The holiday season became more a source of pain than joy for me,” he said. “But I put on my happy face and kept those feelings mostly to myself. I had lost the ‘magic,’ but over the years my growing family and my church helped me to rediscover anew the magic of the Christmas season.”
Now, each Christmas season, you will find Lake celebrating the holidays at his brick home in the Lakewood Court cul-de-sac near Mirror Lake in VanStory Hills with the lights and sounds of the season glittering all the way to the top of the roof.
“When I bought my first home here in Fayetteville in 1998, we did the icicle lights, lights in the bushes and wreaths in the windows,” Lake said. “But I think that I was just going through the motions. Though my wife and I have been members of Snyder Memorial Baptist since soon after we were married in 1998, it was not until my second tour at Fort Bragg, beginning in 2004, that I became involved with the church choir and our annual Singing Christmas Tree.
“The Singing Christmas Tree helped me to recapture the joy that is Christmas and has always been among the top highlights of our holiday season. It always served to kick off our Christmas season, and our decorations and lights help sustain and preserve that Christmas spirit between the Singing Christmas Tree and Christmas Day.
“It was not until 2010, when I suddenly had two toddlers, that I bought my first inflatables, a sitting Mickey and Minnie Mouse,” Lake said. “We had to retire those last year, and one year our golden retriever ‘retired’ two of our deer, but we have added many others with each passing year. But I could see the magic kindled within my children, and that served to help rekindle the magic in my own heart.”
He calls it Lights-On-Lakewood-At-Mirror Lake, and it is a labor of Christmas season joy.
And no small undertaking.
“I do some prep work and staging before Thanksgiving, but normally don’t start setting up until Thanksgiving weekend and the subsequent week with the intention of having the core of the presentation complete by the first weekend in December,” Lake said. “We got a bit of an early start this year. I started the lights two weeks ago and finished the lights and wiring for the lights early this past week. We were working on one of the final phases of setup Friday with the inflatables and their wiring, and we were getting so much traffic that we went ahead and turned on what we had even as we continued to work until about 11 that night. We did more Saturday, and will work some more this coming week. My children are getting older and are starting to help more each year with the manual labor as well.”
You’ll find every Christmas decoration, or just about every Christmas decoration, from a lighted team of reindeer to candy canes to snowflakes to old Saint Nick himself.
“My wife says she doesn’t care for all of the inflatables, but I think she secretly does,” Lake said. “Kids everywhere love them. So, that’s why I do it. Maybe we will outgrow the inflatables one day, but I doubt it.”
Lights And Sounds
Lights-On-Lakewood-At-Mirror Lake is something to see.
“We still have more to add,” Lake said, “to include the biggest of several new additions.”
He’s not saying what, but keep your eyes on Mirror Lake and a view from the spillway dam.
More than 100 hours go into setting up the holiday display, Lake said, to include decorations, cables and electronic hardware for Christmas music by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra that can be heard at 88.1 FM.
“I haven’t taken the time to modify the show but intend to pare down the TSO numbers while adding some more traditional ones and probably some Pentatonix,” Lake said. “Just not there yet. My younger brother introduced me to a product line that, though somewhat complex for some people, greatly simplifies the way lights are connected, programmed and synchronized to the music.”
You’ll find other Yule displays throughout VanStory Hills and in other neighborhoods, and should you ever decide to go all-out, Lake offered a word of caution.
“I must warn folks though,” he said, “this is a hobby that is very addicting, time-consuming, and can be expensive.”
No matter the time or the expense.
Not to Bryan Lake.
“I’ve always said I did it for the kids,” Lake said. “But in truth, I think I did it at least a little bit for me. To help me recapture the magic. To see in my children what my Mom and Dad must have seen in my brothers and me. To see the Christmas season through the eyes of a child, just as the Lord would have us come to him with childlike faith.
“The lights draw folks in, but after all of the lights, all of the inflatables, all of the music and after the oohs and the aahs, the observer will finish with a view of the simple manger beneath the Christian cross and a star in the east…the true meaning of Christmas.
“The bottom line is that I want our presentation to be not only a source of joy and happiness for others, but even more so a subtle or not so subtle reminder of what it is we are actually celebrating in the first place – CHRISTmas,” he said. “If I can reach just one person who needs to hear the message of Christmas or lift just one person from the depths of depression, then it will all have been worth it. We are so glad others can enjoy it. Come and see.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961