For Edgecombe County folks eager to get into the holiday spirit, the home of Curtis and Melody Bearden off N.C. Highway 33 was the place to be Saturday evening.
The Beardens’ 10th annual Turning on the Lights event drew a crowd estimated at 1,200 people.
“This is definitely the biggest crowd we’ve had ever. We’ve overflowed our overflow parking lot,” said Curtis Bearden.
Monte Tippette of Rocky Mount entertained the crowd with “Christmas music to get everybody into the spirit,” including “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Christmas in Dixie.” His 10-year-old son Zory lent his vocals on one of the songs and Curtis Bearden provided accompaniment on the drums.
“Overwhelming and awesome” were the words Tippette used to describe the energy of the crowd that gathered around the stage, applauding and cheering.
The G.W. Carver Elementary School choir took the stage after Tippette’s performance, under the direction of Becky Johnson. Among the holiday tunes the fourth and fifth graders sang are “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Light the Candles Around the World.” The Beardens’ 9-year-old daughter Autumn is a member of the choir and extended the invitation. The Beardens wanted to make the house look special for night they brought their newborn daughter Autumn home from the hospital on Dec. 30, thus the first Turning on the Lights.
One of Autumn’s favorite parts of this year’s Turning on the Lights is a Santa Express train that rode children through the menagerie of lights. Children also had a chance to visit with Santa in a special gazebo Saturday evening and share their Christmas wishes with him.
Jaylen Davis, 8, asked Santa for some new games for his Wii. When asked about his favorite Christmas decoration, he pointed to the roof of the Beardens’ home and said, “the Grinch on the top of the house.”
For Davis’ mother, Brandy Davis, the best decoration is “all the lights around the water, especially the bridge.” A pond in the center of the path illuminated with numerous decorations adds to the effect of the lights, and icicles appear to hang down from a bridge dazzling with colored lights.
“It gets better and better every year,” Brandy said. She and her husband Kevin take their children to the Turning on the Lights every year.
“I love it. It’s for a good cause,” said Kevin.
The proceeds of this year’s Autumn Lights will go to 9-year-old Lucas Moore, who has neck injuries from a car accident and a long recovery period ahead of him. With tears in his eyes, Moore gave a hearty “thank you” to the crowd at the Turning on the Lights for their support.
Wayne Tamberelli, shepherd leader of Beacons of Light life group at Sunset Church of God, prayed a “prayer of protection over Lucas for his ordeal.”
“We know that He’ll be with Lucas on his long journey,” Tamberelli said. He also prayed a “prayer of Thanksgiving for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.”
For Tamberelli, the yearly show of support for a needy child at Christmas shows “people’s hearts are still turned towards God.” Tamberelli sought to remind people that Christmas isn’t just about holiday lights and shopping, it’s about the celebration of a “very, very important birthday” – the birth of the “Savior of the World.”
A face in the crowd who has experienced a miracle of God is Lt. Keith Hale On Jan. 1, 2011, his daughter Miranda went into cardiac arrest and suffered a brain injury. Doctors told Hale that his daughter would be a vegetable for the rest of her life, but today, she is thriving.
“With God’s will, here she is,” said Hale. Miranda, now 14, was the beneficiary of last year’s Turning on the Lights.
“It says so much for living in a small community,” said Hale. “The support you get is unreal. People don’t mind chipping in and helping out.”
Miranda said her favorite part of Saturday evening was the fireworks that lit up the sky, adding to the illumination of Autumn’s Christmas lights below. The lights will be on at the Beardens’ home every evening until Dec. 30. Admission is free, but the Beardens have a donation box for Moore at the entrance of their home.