Christmas has always been an important time of year for Melanie Willis. Her father, Gene Holmes, would put up lights around their house when she was a child to help Santa find his way. Willis has a lot of great memories.
And now that she has a granddaughter, Willis wants to create those same good memories for her. That idea was the genesis of what’s become an Adair County holiday tradition – “Lights on the Farm.”
“I have always loved Christmas and in 2017 my granddaughter Riley was born,” Willis said. “That year, we really got into decorating at Christmas (and since) Riley loves lights, we just kept adding more and more. My parents live in front of us and somehow something my dad and I were doing for my granddaughter had turned into a competition. Before we knew it, it had spread out over the whole farm and people started coming to the farm to see it.”
“Lights on the Farm,” operated by Willis and her husband, Lloyd, is located about 10 miles from Columbia just off Liberty Road on R. Holmes Road. Gates usually open at 5:30 p.m. each night, unless the Willises see a long line is forming to get in. Admission is free.
“This makes people happy; that’s the reason we do it. We don’t make any money,” Melanie said. “People aren’t stressed out when they’re here. People come here and they seem to feel better. When I sat out there the other night with ‘Mrs. Claus,’ people came by smiling. With the kind of year 2020 has been, people need to smile.”
Willis said Santa and Mrs. Claus usually visit the farm on either Saturday or Sunday evening of each week.
Coming off of Hwy. 206, patrons will see a large assortment of light displays at the entrance to the farm. Drivers are then directed to follow a winding road that will take them about half a mile into the farm, where they will circle around and head back.
There are displays of Christmas trees, presents, Santa is driving a school bus in one area of the farm, and there is even a ballerina dancing among decorated trees.
“There are a lot of scenes. There is even a scene of “National Lampoon Christmas,” Melanie said. “We have inflatables, we have a decorated gristmill, and there is a tribute to the veterans in the area. There are no sponsors; this is just from our family to you.”
Depending on traffic, the ride can take up to 15-20 minutes to complete.
“You can go through as many times as you want,” Melanie said.
“Lights on the Farm” will close at the end of December.
“When the kids come through the farm, it seems like they aren’t worried about anything,” Melanie said. “It is just about them seeing Christmas lights for a few minutes. Even the older people seem happy. I wish it were bigger than it is, but I don’t see this as a big deal. We just do this for the people.”
The display at the farm does cost the Willises in time and money. Besides paying for it, they usually begin constructing each display in October.
“This will go on as long as we’re able to do this,” Melanie said. “This wears us out, sure. But this has turned into a family project and I see it continuing for a long time.”
By Scott Wilson