- Bob Arnold
An unparalleled Christmas light show
By Bob Arnold
Just down the road outside of town, the decorative lighting that sustains the Christmas spirit in Wesson streets and yards and on its houses and commercial buildings reaches an unparalleled level in a synchronized light show along nearly a quarter mile stretch of road with myriad displays depicting the varied themes of the season.
Among Christmas light shows in Mississippi, and even across the nation, Santa’s Runway ranks among the most impressive with a 100,000-plus static and synchronized lights installed by David Parks, an outage scheduler at Entergy’s Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, on his 43-acre property in southwestern Copiah County near the Claiborne County border 25 miles from Wesson, Hazlehurst, Brookhaven, and Port Gibson.
The 2022 Santa’s Runway show started on November 25 and runs through Christmas day. Hours are 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m. daily.
More than 100 carloads of holiday season visitors come to Santa’s Runway to marvel at the array of multi-colored flashing and static lights and scenes of Santa and his elves and the nativity on the road that winds past Parks’ house, utility buildings, yard and fields. As they drive by the lights and scenes, they tune their car radios to a low-power FM station (106.3) Parks maintains to accompany the display with Christmas music.
New this year is the Candy Land light display added near the Leaping Stars display added in 2016, An area called the Tree Farm added in 2018 was moved and expanded, more wood cutouts were added to Elf Land and the Mega Tree and Joy of the Toy areas are bigger. Snowman's Hill (2021), Wall of Snowflakes (2019) and Letter to Santa (2020) are popular displays added in recent years.
Santa’s Runway started inauspiciously more than 30 years ago when Parks ran a string of outdoor Christmas lights along the front of his house then at Port Gibson. “The youngins liked the outdoor lights,” Parks explains simply. And then there was some friendly competition from a friend who tried year after year to outdo him with light displays.
At the beginning of October, with the help of his wife Kelly, Parks unpacks the elements of Santa’s Runway, stored neatly in a 28-foot x 18-foot x 8-foot space. They work through November to set up the display that includes some 55,000 stationary lights and more 250 channels (electrical circuits) to control flashing lights.
The Parks design their display and create the musical accompaniment for it on two computers in their home office. Another small computer monitors and controls Santa’s Runway. During the month-long display, the Parks electric bill only increases by $200. In recent years, the Parks have enhanced energy-savings by switching from incandescent to LED lights.
“You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to do it,” says Parks. He and Kelly have find help on the internet and through books. An array of vendors source lighting and new and used electrical equipment. They also connect with other outdoor lighting hobbyists online and face-to-face at conventions to share ideas and learn about ways to improve Santa’s Runway.
Santa’s Way doesn’t charge visitors, but the Parks suggest you might want to contribute to Socks for Heroes, the Wesson-based charity that helps military veterans and facilities that care for them.
Santa’s Runway provide a collection point for needed items. For more information, contact Cathy Stroud at 601-695-4140 or firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about the organization on Facebook at fb.me.socksforheroes.ms.
Visit https://goo.gl/maps/6cFMjnkqeFxfyCcE8 for directions. Santa's Runway is off Highway 547 in southwest Copiah County on 1028 Parks Drive Pattison, MS 39144.Watch for the sign.