The Hampton Green neighborhood got more than new neighbors when Monica and Dorian Taft moved in a few months ago.
They got a big dose of Christmas spirit.
The Tafts, who moved to Matthews in August from near Hilton Head Island, S.C., flicked the switch Saturday night on the 20,000-plus lights – along with dozens of candy canes, snowmen and other assorted holiday ornaments – on their house.
“We like to consider it a gift to the community,” Monica Taft said.
The Tafts have joined the fraternity of Charlotte-area homeowners who spend countless hours every November – usually culminating on Thanksgiving weekend – setting up displays containing tens of thousands of lights. When asked why they spend the time, and the dollars, the light-lovers usually respond the way Dorian Taft did Friday, after he’d spent several hours on the roof of his two-story house.
“It makes me feel good, and other people tell me they enjoy it, too,” he said.
The Tafts have carried the tradition with them in their previous homes – in Seattle, San Diego, and then the Sun City Hilton Head community where they spent the past seven years. Dorian Taft is a retired factory representative for GMC who moved occasionally because of his job. The couple retired to Sun City Hilton Head but decided they wanted to be in a bigger city, so they moved to Charlotte.
“There’s a learning curve with every house,” Dorian Taft said. “It takes a few years to get it to where I want it.”
That was the case this year. In the past, the Tafts sometimes had 50,000 lights sparkling. Dorian Taft said he prefers to cover his roof in lights, a la Clark Griswold and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” But the steep pitch of the roof at their new house, on Gateshead Lane, caught the Tafts off guard this year.
“It’s pretty steep, so I couldn’t do anything with the roof,” he said. “I’ll work on that for next year.”
He also alternates themes. This year, he’s going heavy on candy canes and snowmen. Next year, he’s planning a spiritual theme, with a large Nativity scene.
The inside of their home is equally festive, with a 6-foot-tall Santa in the front room, a Christmas tree, a table set with holiday-themed dishes and strings of lights everywhere.
Like his Christmas light-loving brethren, Dorian Taft tries to avoid the displays you’ll see in big-box stores. He prefers specialized decorations, which he orders online. Among his favorites is a set of old-fashioned “bubble lights,” 3-foot-tall versions of the lights your grandparents had on their Christmas trees.
The Tafts say their efforts often spur neighbors to join in the fun.
“I hope that happens here,” he said. “We seem to have some really nice neighbors, and I think they’ll get into it, too.”
When they want to really have fun, they haul out their snow-making machine, which uses liquid soap to create artificial snow.
“I saw people in Sun City giggling and laughing in the snow,” Dorian Taft said.
“That’s what this season is all about,” Monica Taft added.