For more than 20 years, Jeff Norford has staged the brightest holiday light display in town, a must-see on any light tour that’s been visited by thousands of Charlottesvillians. Which is why a collective “oh no” arose when he announced he would not be putting up lights this year.
“I’m tired,” he says. “I don’t ever go anywhere on Christmas and the kids are grown.” Every night from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Norford would be in front of his Belmont home-turned-holiday-wonderland, welcoming visitors—15,000 last year—who strolled through his collection of Christmas inflatables.
At the news that he was ceasing the holiday tradition, more than 100 people posted their dismay—and their thanks—on his Santa on Mountainview Street Facebook page.
“There’s so much to do and I just don’t have the time and energy,” says Norford, who delivers C-VILLE Weekly and other publications. “People have offered to put it up, but I’d still have to be here.”
“Putting it up” involves 350 inflatables and around 60,000 lights, a chore that takes Norford, who does most of it himself, all of October and November. And then there’s the takedown in January, to put everything into 70 Rubbermaid tubs.
Norford says he spent around $5,000 last year buying new and replacement decorations. “I’m still paying that off,” he says. And his holiday electric bill runs around $2,000 for the season.
JoAnn Robertson has been going to see Norford’s display every Christmas since her 16-year-old daughter was four. “He was always there to greet us,” she says. “He always did it with joy.”
Robertson—and others—want to show their appreciation to Norford. “He has given so much to us.”
“I just need a break,” says Norford, who would like to go to New York for the holidays—or just be able to go see the lights around Charlottesville. But the outpouring of gratitude has touched him.
“I could only read so many posts at a time,” he says, “because they make me cry.”
15,000 people visited Norford’s fantastic display of Christmas lights and inflatables last year.