NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, December 31st, 2020. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Let’s continue on the holiday theme.
With the kind of bleak year we had in 2020, lots of people were looking to amp up the Christmas spirit this year.
But we ran into a little supply-and-demand problem. Think about simple things like Christmas lights. You know, it can take up to nine months to ramp up production and ship them around the world.
That means stores have to anticipate customer demand nearly a year ahead of time.
EICHER: This year, consumers demanded a lot more decorations than they have before. And that caught many stores by surprise. WORLD reporter Paul Butler explores the trend and Sarah Schweinsberg visits a couple of neighborhood light shows.
AUDIO: [ENTERING MENARDS STORE]
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: The week before Christmas is usually a busy time for the Menards home improvement store in Peru, Illinois. Last minute shoppers looking for strings of Christmas lights, prelit trees, and colorful ornaments.
AUDIO: “Hey, welcome..”
But this holiday season’s been different. The Christmas section is practically empty. Only a few LED strings remain. Terry Hogan is the store manager.
HOGAN: This year with the pandemic, they sold a little quicker than the normal…
It’s a national trend. Stores from California to New York sold out of decorations weeks earlier than last year. Analysts blame COVID disruptions for part of it. But in Terry Hogan’s experience, he says it has more to do with people trying to take their minds off the crazy year.
HOGAN: People were trying to get in that mood getting that spirit, you know, trying to find something good to look to, you know, so….it’s good.
Terry Hogan enjoys driving through the neighborhood, seeing how many more lights are out this year—especially knowing many of them came from his store.
HOGAN: A lot more people are decorating just just from driving around and, and noticing houses, they’re all decorated on the outside a lot…kind of brings joy to their hearts and their families, you know, to getting that stuff done.
WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg talked to some of those families getting out and driving around in snowy Utah.
AUDIO: [SOUND OF CROWD]
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The Christmas Village lights up downtown Ogden, Utah. Thousands of colorful strands of lights wrap around towering trees. It’s like walking through a rainbow forest.
Between the trees, there’s small glass houses decorated inside with different themes: like elves and Christmas mice.
Families mosy along the path wearing masks. Some, like mine, break into song.
AUDIO: Noel, noel, born is the king of Israel.
Parents pushing strollers, try to keep up with children running from one house to the next.
Tiffany Rice brought her children out tonight. She says the outdoor lights display offers her family a much needed outing.
RICE: Just something more to do to get out. A little more normalcy for kids.
Besides coming to this display, Rice has been packing her kids into the car to hunt for Christmas lights around town. She says there’s been more options this year.
RICE: There’s I don’t know just lots of people posting on social media. So then you’re like, Oh, where’s that house? Or where’s that place?
Brothers Isaac, Abraham, and Jovani Mercado sit on park bunches under the glowing trees. Isaac says light displays are always something they look forward to.
ISAAC: Like, when winter hit. This was one of the things I was on the list of to do in the winter. Yeah.
But this year, the Christmas Village has taken on a new meaning for the boys. Abraham says light displays like this offer a chance to get out of the house and feel good.
ABRAHAM: It’s more colorful and lively. The oxygen? You know fresh air?
Ophelia Bazan pushes a stroller while her husband carries their daughter. The 1-year-old is wearing a pink snowsuit.
Bazan says this year, the family put lights on their house for the first time.
BAZAN: We put up lights which we normally don’t. Like all different types of colors.
But it wasn’t easy getting their hands on the bulbs.
BAZAN: So we started like the beginning of December. And people were buying a lot so and then I tried going in the mid of December to get more and they’re gone.
Bazan says one reason the family decided to decorate their own home this year is because they don’t want to leave for light displays like this. Bazan is a little nervous being here around other people.
BAZAN: I see a lot of people and you just want to take your precautions… We drive around most of the time. We just kind of drive around. We don’t want to be out with a lot of people.
That’s where drive-in-light shows can be helpful.
MCCOWAN: So for the Christmas show this year that everything we have is all LED lights.
Dave McCowan has been putting on a computerized light show at his home for 16 years now.
Every year he spends hours of his spare time mixing music and timing his lights to pulse with the beat. Cars pull up and tune in to a specific spot on the radio dial. That lets families listen and watch from their car.
AUDIO: For those of you just joining us another show we’ll be starting again soon.
As the music plays, the lights flash to the music, turning red, purple, blue, and green.
AUDIO: [SOUND OF CARTOONS]
McCowan says this is his busiest year yet.
MCCOWAN: Crazy Crazy. It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen… I’ve never seen traffic like this this year. Last night it was both sides of the street. As far as you can go both directions.
McCowan says the higher than usual turnout is motivating him to work even harder on his show for next year. Seeing and hearing the joy of children makes the process worth his time.
MCCOWAN: I like mixing music and I like seeing what I can do with it, but what I really like is when I come out here and I hear kids out in the street singing. That’s kind of fun.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg in Ogden and Kaysville, Utah. And I’m Paul Butler, from Peru, Illinois.