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Jay Little a finalist in Electric Elf competition

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

CHINA GROVE — Surrounded and covered by more than 30,000 lights, 300 Santa Clauses, 50 snowmen, working elves, electric trains and countless animated figures, Jay Little’s house is hardly visible.

He’s another finalist for the Post’s Electric Elf competition.

Little started decorating his home at 312 Haney St. about 10 years ago with only 1,000 lights and a few animated figures. Things grew from there.

“I just kept adding on and it became this,” he said.

Little’s light display is a six-month project. He starts putting up lights on Sept. 1 and they’re ready to turn on by Nov. 1.

After a two-month stay, the lights start coming down Jan. 1. Little said he takes down the last light around the end of February or the first of March.

Many wouldn’t know where to start, but after 10 years, Little has perfected his system.

“I usually start with the back of the house and then go to the front yard last,” he said.

The work doesn’t stop after those six months, either.

“It’s quite a bit of upkeep on that stuff,” Little said.

In addition to replacing 30 burned-out bulbs per day and fixing minor snags in the display operations, Little creates his own animated figures in the off-season. About one-third of his entire display is handmade and “I reckon 80 percent of what I got out here moves,” he said.

He isn’t an electrician by trade; Little says he’s self-taught.

“I just started putting up Christmas lights and it became a hobby. There just aren’t too many people that do this anymore,” he said.

According to Little, the display can never get too big. “If it gets too big I’ll just have to move or buy one of my neighbors out,” he said.

Little adds to the display every year, “I’m buying stuff now for next year,” he said.

He even built a 14-by-32-foot section on to his shop to house all the decorations.

Does Duke Power send you a Christmas card?

“No. They send me a power bill,” he said.

That bill is about $1,000 a month. “I’m running about 40 20-amp breakers,” he said.

Despite the high power bill, Little said he’s never thought about charging admission, though he does have a donation box to help buy things for the next year.

On a slow night, about 400 to 500 cars pass the house and “on the weekend it’s 1,000,” he said.

Any traffic accidents?

“I’ve had one that I know of,” Little said. Someone looking at the lights rear-ended the car in front of them. Those folks were looking at the lights as well, he added.

Little usually turns his lights on about 6 p.m. and keeps them on during the week until about 9 or 9:30 p.m.

Little stays outside with the display while cars are going by. With that many lights and moving objects, something is going to stop or break.

He usually doesn’t get to sleep on Christmas Eve until late at night. Lots of people drive by trying to get their children to sleep.

According to Little, seeing the display once isn’t enough. “You have to come by because I put something different out about every day between now and Christmas.”

* * *

To nominate someone for the Post’s Electric Elf Christmas light competition, call Holly Lee at 704-797-7683. Please have your nominee’s name and phone number and be ready to give a detailed description of their light display.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com.

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