Each year the parade of Christmas lights behind Ron and Deborah Self’s home on Fredericks Hall Road gets a bit longer as the couple adds a few more glittering stars, one more inflatable Santa, or another penguin on skates.
And each holiday season, a few more people from the surrounding area discover the unusual light display. They stop by the Selfs’ place in Bumpass to have some hot cocoa and take a wagon or barrel train ride to see the show.
“We love kids and love doing things for the community,” Ron Self, who is 65 and moved to Bumpass four years ago, said recently. “We love to be around people. You want it to be exciting so people will come back every year.”
This is the second year that all the proceeds from Self’s Festival of Lights, as it is called, will go to the Louisa Humane Society. The society, in turn, is splitting the proceeds with Animal Care Assistance Program, another local group that helps care for household pets.
On a typical Friday or weekend evening this time of year, a visitor will find Self driving children and their families around the brightly lit field behind his house, while Shirley Graininger, a volunteer with the humane society, staffs the heated shed where cookies and drinks are sold. Another volunteer keeps a warm fire going nearby.
“Ron and his wife approached us about it,” Graininger said. “He wanted to keep the prices where people could afford them. The first year, we almost froze to death, but now we have the shed. It takes a lot of volunteer time, but I think we raised about $3,000 the first year.
“That pays for a lot of spay and neuters,” she said.
The proceeds also help pay for veterinary treatment for animals adopted from the Louisa County Animal Shelter. The humane society’s main function is to encourage people to adopt pets from the shelter, but first they often need shots and other care. The society’s $150 adoption fee “barely pays” for the vet fees, Graininger said.
Self has been putting on a Christmas show in one place or another for over three decades, he said. Before he retired in 2007, he managed Mr. B’s Bluegrass Festival Park in Ladysmith, then ran the Fredericksburg fairgrounds. He always donated the money he made from the light displays to a charity, typically something to help children.
“Every year I catch the after-Christmas sales,” Self said. “As much as we burn them, I try to replace the lights with new ones. The color comes off them after awhile. I would say I spend a couple thousand bucks in a season. It’s $10 to $12 a day to run the small generators and $20 a day for the large ones.
“I’ve got enough extension cords to go from here to Mineral,” he added.
Josh and Joyce McHale, two of Self’s neighbors, come over sometimes to help out by driving the barrel train or hay rides. Self said he’d love to have more volunteers and invites them to bring their own lights and other decorations to add to the show.
The light display started going up in late October on the Selfs’ property. The first night they were open was Nov. 24, and the show will go on until Dec. 30.
“The big deal is when I need to take it down,” Self said. ”My son used to get a kick out of helping me. If it weren’t for my wife helping me, I wouldn’t do it.”