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Christmas on the Farm

Christmas on the Farm
December 4, 2001 |

By day, Danny Jones’ farm near the Blount County town of Nectar is not that different from other Alabama horticulture operations. Neatly pruned peach trees border rolling fields that this summer yielded a bounty of cantaloupes, watermelons, pumpkins and assorted vegetables.But when the sun goes down this time of year, the 150-acre spread is transformed into a winter wonderland where metal skeletons of reindeer, angels and snowmen come to life in a brilliant display of color and light.It’s what Jones calls “Christmas on the Farm,” and in just two short years the holiday light display has become one of the largest in the state and one of Alabama’s top Christmastime tourist attractions.Jones said he and his partners, father, Dwight, and brother-in-law, Daryl Sherrell, started Christmas on the Farm last year to help offset the expenses associated with their other “entertainment farming” venture, The Great Pumpkin Patch–which has attracted thousands of jack-o’-lantern hunters during the past eight years.”We spent a lot of time and money on the pumpkin patch, but we realized the farm couldn’t make it just on the pumpkin patch,” Jones said. “Christmas on the Farm will help pay the expenses of fixing fences, painting barns and general maintenance. With just the pumpkin patch, our profit wasn’t there at the end of the year because we had to turn around and spend what we had made to get ready for the next year.”For Jones, however, the richest rewards from Christmas on the Farm are not financial. Rather, the deeply spiritual man said his payment comes from the smiling faces of children who visit the farm.”We try to offer something clean and entertaining for the whole family,” Jones said. “They can come to the country and spend good quality time with their family on the farm. And, it makes me feel good to know that we helped make someone’s day a little brighter.”Last year, more than 35,000 people visited Christmas on the Farm despite unpredictable weather that included thunderstorms, sleet and sometimes bitterly cold temperatures. This year, Jones has added more displays, and he hopes to attract as many as 100,000 visitors.Holiday sightseers can choose to ride a hay wagon through the 1-mile light show for $5 per person or drive their own vehicle for $3 per person. The show begins at the Christmas on the Farm arch where Rudolph and Santa have swung the barn doors open to welcome children of all ages. Visitors then proceed along a path illuminated by 150 displays containing more than 2 million individual bulbs. Highlights include Santa Land, the 12 Days of Christmas, farm scenes, wildlife scenes, a tunnel of lights and what Jones says is the largest Christian light display in the state.At the barn and gift shop guests can enjoy hot apple cider and cocoa or shop for ornaments, crafts and Christmas trees. Jones also has set up a low-watt radio station so visitors can listen to holiday music on their car stereos while at Christmas on the Farm. Next year, Jones plans to incorporate an additional 40 acres into the light show, and he hopes to develop another entertainment agriculture event for the spring. Eventually, Jones, who also manages Birmingham’s Finley Avenue Farmers Market, hopes to be able to work full-time on the farm. The third-generation farmer also would like for his children to be able to continue the family business.”I would like for my children to follow directly after me,” Jones said. “As long as the Lord keeps blessing me the way he has, there will be a future in it (farming). That’s not to say it will be easy. There’s always hardships, but there’s also good that comes out of it.”Jones and his crew worked almost around the clock beginning the day after Halloween to transform The Great Pumpkin Patch into Christmas on the Farm. The light festival opened the day after Thanksgiving and will welcome visitors through New Year’s night–except for Christmas Eve, which Jones and his 15 employees take off so “Santa can do his work.”By the end of December, Jones expects his electric bill to top $10,000, but he said that’s a small price to pay for the joy the displays–especially the Christian scenes–bring his guests.”Since Sept. 11, we’ve seen our president, the people affiliated with our schools, even the media telling folks to pray. Maybe this will give them that spiritual lift we all need this year,” Jones said. “If that light display changes one person’s life, everything has been worth it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Christmas on the Farm is located on Blount County Road 45 just off Alabama Hwy. 160, about 10.5 miles east of I-65. For more information, call (205) 647-2183.

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