Pat Wright: Making Christmas magical in Green Creek

Published 8:56 pm Friday, December 5, 2014


By Mark Schmerling

“It’s all about the kids,” said Pat Wright, who, 20 years ago, put out a modest Christmas display at her Green Creek home.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

That display has evolved into a much larger attraction, visited by many local residents, some of whom first saw them when their parents brought them along, and who now bring their own children to help usher in the holiday season.

Those early displays were a collaboration between Wright, her mother, Clifford (Smith) Ballenger; and her step-father, Jim Ballenger.

In recent years, Wright has ben the driving force, and the main, and sometimes only, “elf.”

Before Robert Goforth was sidelined by strokes, he played Santa Claus for visiting children, and helped with the displays. When Goforth played Santa, he knew exactly what each youngster wanted, his intuition aided by parental whispering.

Did any of the visiting children recognize the person under the costume?

“My niece and nephew did once,” Goforth recalled.

Goforth’s “bucket list” includes him re-creating the role, and providing more magic for visiting children.

“You try to decorate in the eyes of a child,” Wright emphasized, “because that’s what it’s all about.”

Wright’s Christmas home is on Highway 9 South, just north of the Green Creek Fire Department and on the opposite side of the highway. A circular drive allows visitors to drive past all the lights and other displays. Passersby will recognize the location, and where to drive in.

“Everybody knows to drive through,” Wright noted.

Today’s visual hot spot began modestly, with a small swing set featuring bears and lights. “We tried to do a little more each year,” Wright explained.

Visitors love the scene, but they require a great deal of work and maintenance, Wright noted.

Each year, in mid-October, when Wright sets up the displays anew, she tests lights and wires. Does she keep spares?

“Yes, I do,” she answered. “I’ve got a big, old box full of testers, lights and cords.” She also noted that replacing a string of lights is often easier than replacing one burned-out bulb in the string.

“It (the latter) is hard to do,” she pointed out.

The displays remain up until just after Christmas.

“I try to take them down before the cold weather really hits,” Wright said.

Goforth noted, “You no sooner finish putting it up, than you have to take it down. You have to continuously monitor it.”

When jokingly asked whether she received a discount on her electric bill for all the displays, Wright shook her head, noting that she receives no deal, and pays all the expenses at standard rates.

However, some appreciative visitors leave donations to help with those expenses. Wright, in turn, appreciates their generosity.

Because Wright does everything herself, the overall display size has remained relatively stable in recent years. At one time, it was even a bit larger.

“I had to cut down,” she said. “I’m only one person.”

How many visitors drive through each year?

“I quit counting,” Wright admitted. “There used to be a whole lot more, though the site remains very popular.”

Before Goforth had to get around in a wheelchair, the display included ground-level lights along the driveway path.

“One year, it snowed on those lights,” Wright noted, “and it was just beautiful.”