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Elks home continues Christmas light display under new owership

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 13 2013 05:27:54 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 13 2013 05:34:13 PM EST

Holiday lights at Elks National Home in Bedford

BEDFORD, Va. -

Hanging from just about every tree, bush, and building on the grounds of the Elks National Home is a strand of Christmas lights.

Jimmy Overstreet leads the painstaking process of putting up more than 60,000 bulbs.

"We've been working on it since the second week of October and we're just now winding up," said Overstreet, a maintenance worker at the Elks Home.

Since 1953, the Elks organization has lit up Bedford with a display that's grown larger every year.

"It's a tradition," said Pam Mutter, executive director of the Elks Home.  "You can't have Christmas in Bedford without coming to the Elks National Home."

In one way the tradition is coming to an end.

This is the last year that the Elks will be involved.  Starting next year the home will be operated by English Meadows Senior Living, based in Christiansburg.

Many in Bedford are wondering what the change in ownership will mean for the Christmas lights.

"I think that's the number one question on everyone's mind," said Mutter.  "Will the lights continue? The new owners have said yes, the lights will continue, so we're very happy about that."

It's unclear what the display will look like without the Elks.  Under their direction, the show has maintained a strong Christian theme with scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Elks have also put on the show for free, despite the high cost of burning 60,000 lights for three straight weeks.

"It is an expense, of course, but we've been doing it for so long that nobody looks at that," Mutter said.

Indeed, the Elks have been doing the lights for so long that many take the show for granted.

For now it looks like the tradition will continue.  Bedford natives like Overstreet are counting on it.

"It'd be rough if they cut it out, because there ain't nothing else around here like it," said Overstreet.

The Elks Home lights will be on every night through New Years Eve.  Be prepared to sit in traffic.  Hundreds of cars are known to line up for upwards of a mile, waiting to see the display.