ON THE ROAD — The funniest thing I heard this past week came from Robert Peeler. Before retirement, Peeler told me, he worked for Duke Power.
This is especially a knee-slapper heading into Christmas as you approach his house on Upper Palmer Road and look across an open field from Gold Knob Road.
“I decorate for a far-out view,” he says.
Robert and Judy Peeler have plastered their house and yard with 50,000 lights, which is actually down from their all-time high of 69,000, because Robert stayed away from his tallest trees this year.
From the sky, it must look like a small airport.
Strings of cars, even buses, move slowly down this country road in eastern Rowan County to marvel at the Peelers’ Christmas decorations.
“I live next door to it,” says daughter-in-law Vicki Peeler, one of several people who nominated the Peelers’ property for the newspaper’s “Yule Light Up My Life” contest. “He does a great job, and he made all the wood cut-outs that he uses and has Christmas music playing.”
Peeler told me he starts work on his house and yard two weeks before Halloween so it’s ready by Thanksgiving.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, the Peelers’ house makes the “Yule Light Up My Life” Top 10 list of places to see in Rowan County for holiday decorations.
I spent several nights during the past week visiting nominated locations for the “contest.” About 40 nominations came in, though many people mentioned the same properties.
In the end, I performed drive-by inspections of 22 different places, from one end of Rowan County to the other.
The goal of the contest was to come up with 10 places worthy of getting into your car and — except for the gas — having a cheap night’s entertainment by visiting sites that are jaw-dropping and suitable for all ages.
It’s definitely a G-rated tour and one worthy of taking if you’re into grand gestures, music, ingenuity, light pollution, moving parts, figurines and blowups, secular and religious themes and indomitable Christmas spirits.
Things to remember about the judging that went into “Yule:”
1) I was the judge.
2) The judge is always right.
3) See Nos. 1 and 2.
My false bravado aside, I found the judging quite difficult, and it’s why I’m including a number of honorable mentions after the Top 10. These places are terrific, too, and could have easily made the list. See story on 2A.
Also, do not take the order in which the places are listed as indicative of the best to the 10th best. That’s not the case at all. Rather, the list is grouped sort of by area, to help with your travel plans.
Later this week, I hope to write a feature story on the contest’s overall winner, whom I have yet to choose. This is a reminder once again that I am open to bribes.
So here is the “Yule Light Up My Life” Top 10. Have mercy on my soul.
108 Harrison St., Salisbury — Oliver and Wendle Pruett’s house has all colors of the rainbow, and it looks as though every square foot of their home, utility building, railings and side fence are covered by lights.
Oliver Pruett told me, with exactness, that he has 15,547 lights. You’ll hear some tinkling bells and see some well-placed stars in the window. It’s a delight.
Directions: From the Square in Salisbury, travel south on South Main Street. Turn right onto Harrison Street (across from Rick’s Barbecue and Grill at 929 S. Main St.), and the Pruetts’ house will be less than a block on Harrison Street, on your left.
117 Wyndham Way, Salisbury — This is a palatial house completely outlined in lights in the Forest Glen subdivision off N.C. 150. But it has many other treasures. The animated Grinch on a sled being pulled by his dog is noteworthy alone.
Large bows mark the outer boundaries of the property, decorated with beautiful snowflakes, heralding angels, a large wreath, handsome Santas and massive columns covered with greenery.
“They go over the top year after year,” Leigh Ellington says of the Sharp family. “It’s worth the drive to see a mini McAdenville/Charlotte Motor Speedway for free.”
Directions: Take N.C. 150 (Mooresville Highway) west out of Salisbury. Not far past Sherrills Ford Road, turn left onto Forest Glen Drive. Go .2 miles and take a right onto West Glenview Drive. Proceed for .6 miles, and take the second right onto Wyndham Way. The Sharps’ house is several hundred feet down Wyndham Way on the right.
302 Hickory Lane, Salisbury — This is a hidden beauty off Airport Road. Daniel Peck turns on his light show from 6-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday. He has employed two miles of drop cords to pull off his extravaganza and depends on 192 channels of Light-o-Rama, which are timed to the songs he plays on 107.1 FM.
Peck tells me his more than 20,000 lights have been off over the previous two years while his family dealt with some health matters. After his wife received a kidney transplant, “she asked to have the lights back on for Christmas this year, so we did,” Peck says.
He adds that 90 percent of the lighting arrangements in the yard are handmade.
Directions: Take N.C. 150 west out of Salisbury and turn left onto Airport Road. Go .7 miles, turning at the third left, to stay on Airport Road. Proceed .4 miles and turn left onto Hickory Cv. Travel .1 miles to 302 Hickory Lane. If you reach the end of Hickory Cv, you’ve gone about .1 miles too far.
7450 Therrell Road, Kannapolis — Diane Overcash has created a great Christmas treat of lights and homemade wooden decorations covering her house, yard and fence in a far southwestern corner of Rowan County.
The music playing sounds almost like delicate wind chimes. The characters in her yard range from Disney dalmatians to snowmen and Mrs. Claus. Overcash also provides a nativity, candy canes, stars, workshop and reindeer in flight.
Don’t let the location discourage you.
Directions: Take N.C. 152 west out of China Grove and travel many miles toward the Atwell Fire Department. Turn left onto Deal Road, follow it a couple of miles to Unity Church Road and turn left. Follow Unity Church Road until reaching Watt’s BP station on the left. Turn left onto P. Edwards Road next to the station. Go to the end of P. Edwards Road and take a sharp left onto Therrell Road. The Overcash house will be on the right.
810 Power St., China Grove — Carl Zachary’s house decorations even come with their own website (Christmasinthegrove.com). This place is a must-see and Power Street, which runs parallel to U.S. 29 North near Gary’s Barbecue, offers a great chance to slow down and see the display up close.
Zachary says he has more than 100 blowmolds and lights that dance to music on 89.7 FM. You name it, he seems to have it — a full choir on the porch, characters from “Peanuts” skating on ice, a driveway lined by candy canes. Santa and reindeers, snowmen, big snowflakes on the roof, a row of toy soldiers out front and, by itself, an impressive nativity scene.
Directions: Travel to Gary’s Barbecue on U.S. 29 North and go about a tenth of a mile farther toward Salisbury and you’ll see Zachary’s house. Turn right onto Power Street, and you’ll have your convenient path to the location.
12955 U.S. 52, Gold Hill — A lot of people see this annual light display along well-traveled U.S. 52, but it’s always fun — and a Christmas tribute of sorts to farming.
A combine and dump truck are outlined nicely in lights, with tracer lights making sure things make it into the truck. A Santa is driving the combine; an elf, the truck.
Directions: Take U.S. 52 south through Rockwell toward Gold Hill. The display will be on your left, not far beyond Donny’s Western Store.
2335 Upper Palmer Road, Rockwell — It’s difficult to take in everything at Bob and Judy Peeler’s property with one glance. It spreads for some 300 feet along the road.
“It’s tastefully done, and hundreds of people enjoy the sight each year,” Gail Cauble Gurley says.
Andrea Gardner says it’s almost too much to describe.
“Put it this way,” Garner says. “If it’s in his yard, it has lights on it. Bob does this every year for the community. This is his pride and joy, gift to the community and gift to Duke Energy. I’m sure they appreciate his business.”
Peeler told me that his former employer has never given him a discount.
Directions: From Salisbury, take U.S. 52 south. Before reaching Rockwell, turn left onto Sides Road. In less than a mile, take a left onto Gold Knob Road. Stay on Gold Knob Road for a couple of miles until reaching Upper Palmer Road to the right. The house already will be visible. It’s on the left of Upper Palmer Road.
1013 Faith Road, Faith — Randall and Edie Barger have gone crazy for your viewing enjoyment. While other Christmas lights and displays in Rowan County are of the drive-by variety, the Bargers provide a drive-through extravaganza, best consumed by turning off your lights and marveling at the acres of lights, many of them of the animated variety.
You’ll see things such as a football player kicking a one through the goal posts or a volleyball game in progress. The Bargers also offered a live nativity this weekend.
There’s music, a patriotic corner, scenic beauty (the trip takes you beside water), and the Bargers will make you green with envy in how exquisitely they’ve decorated their country home.
“I ride through — lights off, of course — every night on my way home from work,” Angela Griffin says. “The lights reflecting off of the two ponds in the front yard, 104.7 playing while Santa and Rudolph are hanging around an old barn, and at the exit of the drive, a beautiful picture of Jesus.”
A word of warning: Look out for the jumping fish.
“I would estimate that there are well over 150,000 lights in this awesome display,” Bill Forman says.
Directions: Out of Salisbury, follow Faith Road all the way through downtown Faith. Close to the town limits and before you reach Deal Street, look to your left for the entrance into the Bargers’ site. The end of the drive-through puts you on Deal Street.
123 Yost Farm Road, Granite Quarry — At first glance, this house might not overwhelm you, until you stop and look into a front window, second from the left.
You see a freakishly real (but virtual) Santa Claus, going about the business of checking a list, delivering packages, tasting his milk and cookies and every now and then waving to you and wishing you a merry Christmas.
This is one of the coolest Christmas special effects I’ve ever seen at a house. It’s almost spooky for how life-like it is.
Directions: Take U.S. 52 into Granite Quarry. Turn right onto Bank Street, cross the railroad tracks and at the stop sign take a left onto Main Street. Go about a mile and take a right onto Yost Farm Road. The house will be about a quarter of a mile on your left.
1112 Choate Road, Salisbury — There are several moving parts and a definite penguin theme to some of the decorations at this house of the Settle family.
The penguins coming out of an igloo are fun for children to watch. The yard and house include some 12,000 lights. In addition to penguins and animation, you’ll find music, a train, trees, deer, camels and a cannon.
It also includes a nice nativity scene. Brianna Settle says most of the decorations are handmade.
Directions: From Salisbury, take Interstate 85 north to exit 79. Turn right at the end of the exit ramp, then take an almost immediate right onto Choate Road. The Settles’ house will be the fourth house on the right.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or email@example.com.