South Charlotte

It's time for Light Wars - Southern style

First there was "Star Wars"; then came "Whale Wars."

But nothing can compete with the Light Wars taking place on Invershiel Court, a small cul-de-sac in Mint Hill.

Competition is so fierce that three of the neighbors will be featured on HGTV's "All Out American Christmas," premiering 1 p.m. Dec. 23.

The friendly competition started about four years ago, when Pat Bucka accused neighbor and good friend Matt Schwoebel of choosing quantity over quality when stringing his lights.

"He was putting lights on his house, so I started putting mine out at the same time. He yelled at me that there was a whole lot of quantity, but not quality. The next year I took it to the next level and made my lights twinkle and repeat. I blew his through the roof," Schwoebel said.

Bucka sees the displays from a different perspective.

"I told him that you don't just throw up lights. You've got to have a plan. You want to make it look like an integrated piece of art, not just putting lights in places and turning them on," Bucka said.

Both men have so many lights - about 78,000 at last count - that they now decorate the houses on each side of theirs as well. They've also pulled new neighbor Crystal Jones into the competition, though she admits she's nowhere near their level.

"For years, Pat and Matt have had a rivalry going. I'm the new one on the street, so I got stuck in the middle," said Jones.

"I moved here last year, and the second day, they showed up at my door to introduce themselves. Then they said, 'By the way, you have to decorate your house for Christmas.' "

HGTV discovered the Mint Hill three from a video on the Internet. After a few emails back and forth, show hosts came to Mint Hill twice to interview the three and film the competition. The winner will be revealed Dec. 23 and will get their power bill paid for the month.

Once Christmas is over, the Invershiel Court group will spend a few days taking down the lights and storing them for next year in their attics, sheds, neighbors' sheds and any other dry places they can find - but not before adding to their collection.

Tradition dictates the trio hit the stores early Dec. 26 for the after-Christmas sales.

"The day after Christmas is like Black Friday for us. We get out early to try and get all the lights we can," said Schwoebel.

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