Forty-five years ago, Loudine Sharp and her husband bought their first Santa Claus yard figure and a plastic snowman in Chattanooga to decorate for the Christmas holidays. Little did either one of them know that this would be the start of an annual family tradition that would bring visitors from other states to their homestead.
When driving through Plainville on Ga. 53 during the holiday season, one might come across a string of houses with extravagant light displays and illuminated statues of Santa, Frosty, nativity scenes and reindeer. Each of these three houses belong to the Sharp family, and ever since 1973 the family has decorated their houses together, putting out the original two figures with others that have been collected over the years.
Gail Tippens, one of Sharp’s daughters, said her late mother never meant for this tradition to be something that drew visitors. But as Sharp gathered more and more yard ornaments from stores such as Target, Sears, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes and even occasionally traveling hours away to pick up one-of-a-kind decorations, the ritual quickly became significant to the entire family.
“It just grew and grew and we tried to get everything we possibly could get,” Tippens said. She said each year they have a plethora of people who slowly drive by to admire their lights, park their cars in their driveways to take pictures and even visitors who want to talk to the family.
“We start as soon as the Halloween decorations come down,” said Tippens, who spent a week setting up this year’s display, “and work right up until Thanksgiving Day.”
With the recent passing of her mother and her late husband, Jerry James Tippens, she’s had to pick up a lot of the slack, and said the display has shrunk a bit in size as a result. But her brother and sister-in-law, Wyatt and Barbara Sharp, who live in the house next to her parents’ old house, and her sister Rita Sharp, still help Tippens and do what they can to make their houses look special for the holidays.
Apart from extended hours preparing the grand presentation for drivers-by, Tippens said her favorite part of this holiday tradition is meeting with people who stop by.
“We’ve had visitors from Alabama and Tennessee come by to see, and sometimes there were so many trying to get in that you couldn’t even get cars in the driveway,” Tippens said. “But my favorite memory is visiting with all the people and being out there with my mama.”
In honor of her mother, Tippens continues the “biggest Christmas tradition” of the family besides their yearly Christmas Eve dinner. The process of decorating is a never-ending one, Tippens said, but something that makes Christmas special and reminds her of her mom.
“We visited this house in Nicholasville, my husband took me there years ago and there were just layers of decorations from the road all the way up to the house,” Tippens said. “That’s what my mama said she wanted and we just about had it that way.”
Though the amount of decorations has dwindled down in recent years, Tippens still foresees this tradition continuing as long as she and her siblings can get out to set everything up. Her and her family are always welcoming of visitors and ready to spread the Christmas spirit through their traditional holiday displays.