Saturday 31 December 2011

Six Million Christmas Lights

It was New Year's Eve 2009 at Disney World.  Rob, Thomas, Jacqueline and I had just dined at Coronado Springs Hotel.  We were sitting at the bus stop, under the lamplight, listening to the crickets chirp.  It was magical:  I had never heard crickets on New Year's Eve before.  After several minutes, the bus made its way along the palm-tree lined boulevard, pulled up and we climbed aboard, heading to Hollywood Studios.  Outside the amusement park, a giant Christmas tree sat, covered with Merry Christmas signs in many different languages.  Inside the park, we headed to Residential Street on the Back Lot where we were treated to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.  Six million Christmas lights adorned the buildings.  Christmas music played on a loudspeaker and the lights danced in time with the music.  The display took our breath away.

Back in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1986, a little girl named Allison Brianne Osborne asked her father if he would make a light display in front of their home.  Her father, Jennings Osborne, complied by hanging up 1000 lights.  By 1993, the display had grown to 3 million lights, attracting not only locals but also tourists to the house.  News crews would often visit the house to film the lights.  Six neighbours filed lawsuits claiming the spectacle of lights caused traffic jams from sunset to midnight on the 35 days they were lit.  Mr. Osborne's response was to add another 3 million lights to his already brilliant display.  The Supreme Court shut the display down completely in 1995. 

But Mr. Osborne would not give up.  Disney World offered to display the lights at MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios).  With 20,000 man hours, 10 miles of rope, 30 miles of cord, 6 million lights and 800,000 watts of electricity, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights shined again in 1995.  Christmas visitors (mid-November to early January) are treated to the Christmas lights every year, thanks to the generosity of the Osborne Family.

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