The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 26, 2012

New features added at Autumn’s lights

The Daily Southerner

TARBORO — Autumn’s Lights have burned brightly this year at the home of Curtis and Melody Bearden on Highway 33.

“When we turn on the lights, it’s turning on the lights inside each and every one of us,” said Curtis Bearden. The Beardens have a donation box at the entrance of their lights display, and they give the donations to a child in need every year. This year, it’s 9-year-old Lucas Moore, of Bear Grass.

Seeing people drop donations in the box for Moore has warmed the heart of 9-year-old Autumn Bearden, for whom the lights were named.

“It makes me feel really great to see that people have the heart to stop and donate,” said Autumn. Moore was in a car accident on Oct. 16 that left him with a fracture and torn ligaments in his neck. He was in the hospital until two days before Thanksgiving.

Lucas Moore’s father, Johnnie, called the love that people have shown to him, his wife Lee Ann and their son “overwhelming.”

“I’m so thankful. I don’t know how to thank people like that. It means the world to us,” said Johnnie. He said his son is doing well, and he will be able to have his neck halo removed on Jan. 15.

“I’m grateful. I’m glad he’s still with us,” Johnnie said.

“I hope they feel the love of God. That’s what we’re doing. We’re doing God’s work,” said Curtis. To Autumn, that’s what Christmas is all about, rather than the giving of gifts.

“It’s about the love and sharing the love with your family, and about Jesus’ birth,” she said.

On Dec.1, the opening night of Autumn’s Lights, Moore got a chance to ride the Santa Express train through the lights, watch a fireworks display, and stand on stage in front of the crowd and say “Thank you.”

“I think there was probably a good 2,000 people out here on opening night,” said Curtis. The crowd was so large that a portion of Highway 33 was closed to traffic to allow everybody to exit the Beardens’ residence.

One member of the crowd, 6-year-old Cameron Matthews, son of Michael and Holly Matthews, wasn’t anxious to leave after the last firework lit up the sky. He sought out Curtis Bearden after he saw a projection of Santa Claus in the window.

“He would not leave opening night until he found me and told me Santa Claus was in my house eating all my cookies,” Curtis said. The projection is a new addition to this year’s lights, and gives the illusion of Santa coming to the window and waving, eating cookies and placing presents underneath the tree.

Also new this year was a sailboat over the pond, a penguin, the Santa Express train and the Santa Claus in the gazebo. The Beardens have already begun planning for next year’s lights display.

“We’re going to be putting up a 10-foot by 30-foot big screen. We’re going to have drive-in Christmas movies Friday and Saturday nights,” said Curtis. Another plan for next year is to make arrangements for parking in the backfield, which will allow more room and eliminate the problems from this year.

Curtis estimated 100 cars drive through the lights display on weekends. In keeping with tradition, the lights will remain on this year through the night of Autumn’s 10th birthday, on Sunday.