Larry and Rachel Charpiat debuted the current and final edition of their Pilot Mountain Christmas light display on Thanksgiving evening, drawing an estimated crowd of 4,000 people to their home during the four-day holiday weekend with the promise of many more to follow before its Jan. 1 closing.
The display has continued to grow in this, its final year, with the total number of lights now nearing one million. Special additions will include a memory board, featuring photos from over the years.
Other favorite sections will include the return of Santa’s Enchanted Forest, Santa’s Workshop, “Snow Babies,” Mickey’s Playhouse, a talking Christmas tree and numerous other computer animated displays.
According to Rachel Charpiat, last year’s display drew a record number of visitors, with more than 20,000 people signing the couple’s guest book.
“That was the most ever,” she noted, “and some people don’t take the time to sign the guest book. But we’re expecting this year to be even bigger.”
Limited parking is available for 250 cars (150 when raining) so visitors are encouraged to carpool whenever possible. Tour bus visits are restricted to Sunday-Thursday nights, with advance notice requested.
Special events for the season will include numerous visits from Santa, primarily on Friday and Saturday evenings, with hours to vary. To confirm dates and times, visit www.pilotmountainchristmas.com or check out the Pilot Mountain Christmas Facebook page.
Dry weather has already contributed to two small fires at the location and smoking is prohibited.
The display is provided free of charge with hot chocolate available. Donations are accepted to help with electrical and other costs. Donations of canned food items are also accepted throughout the season with items given to the Pilot Mountain Outreach Center to benefit those with need in the community.
For Larry Charpiat, the display continues a 50-year passion for Christmas light displays begun while living in Florida. The couple relocated to Pilot Mountain to be near Rachel Charpiat’s family and has continued the display locally for the past eleven years. The number of lights, displays and visitors has continued to grow steadily since that time.
“This will be our final year,” Rachel Charpiat said. ”For years this has consumed us, but it has gotten too big for Larry and I and we’re tired.”
“It’s sad for us,” she continued, “and we’ll miss it. We do realize how much it means to this community. We’d love to see someone purchase it and set it up somewhere else in the area. There are a few favorite pieces that Larry won’t part with but our hope is to see the display continue with someone else.”
The Charpiats’ final display is open from 6-10 nightly through Jan. 1. It is located two miles from Old Highway 52 By-Pass, at 4236 NC Highway 268 East in Pilot Mountain.
With their longstanding tradition of Christmas light displays drawing to a close, the Charpiats are already making plans to enjoy some of their newfound free time. A trip to Disneyworld is on the calendar for early next year.
“And we’re looking forward to doing some holiday traveling,” Rachel Charpiat noted with a smile. “Maybe we’ll go see some Christmas lights.”