When the new season of ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight kicks off Monday night, a beloved local tradition will get its turn in the national spotlight. On its season premiere night, the show will feature Fayette County’s Gaddy Family Christmas Lights Extravaganza. Hours of rushed preparation and long nights filming will culminate in the hour-long program the family can’t wait to see.
The idea to be on the show first popped up during its first season back in 2012. The family sent in a clip of their display, but it got no response.
“We submitted a video and never heard a word, so we never thought another thing of it,” said Gwen Gaddy, who with her husband, Mike, first started inviting the public to drive through their elaborate display nearly 30 years ago.
There was some relief when they didn’t hear back.
“The more we watched the show, the more intimidating it became,” she said. “We thought it would just be so stressful.”
Long gone from their plans, that all changed earlier this year with an unexpected call.
“In January they called. This bigger than life voice was on the answering machine, ‘This is John Barrow from the Great Christmas Light Fight, and we just can’t believe that we haven’t talked to you guys,’” she recalled. “It was very flattering. It made us feel like a million dollars.”
The family agreed to go through the application process and soon got called for a Skype interview with the whole family. Mike and Gwen gathered around the computer with their children and grandchildren so producers could see if they would be the right fit for the show. They must’ve liked what they saw because what was supposed to be a 30-minute interview ran into nearly two hours with the Gaddys.
“It turned out to be so fun. The best part of it was our children blew us away with their memories, stuff that we didn’t even realize they remembered or had feelings about,” said Gwen. “I thought, if nothing else comes of this, this right here is worth it all.”
After months of anxious waiting, they got the call in early August that they were selected to be on the show. Normally, they would work from the end of August until Thanksgiving night setting up the full display, but producers wanted to film in early October.
The rush to get ready was stressful, but it wasn’t all bad. Mike lost 12 pounds in four weeks from the work, but it left him with more time to relax.
“It was a relief to have it all set up and ready to go,” said Gwen. “Mike got to eat the first Thanksgiving dinner he’s ever gotten to eat without having to worry about getting back out there to get everything plugged in.”
Filming went for four days in a row in early October from 10 in the morning till 2 a.m. or later each night. The family raved about how easy everyone was to work with in spite of the hectic schedule. Next comes the fun part, watching the finished project.
“Now, it’s all history. It feels like a big whirlwind,” Gwen said. “It really was a fun experience.”
The Great Christmas Light Fight airs on Monday nights on ABC. The Gaddy family will appear Monday, December 4 in the 9 p.m. time slot. Family and friends will be gathering at Wings & Things in Tyrone for a watch party.
The Christmas Lights Extravaganza is located at 898 Sandy Creek Road. The drive-thru display is up and open to the public every year from Thanksgiving night through January 1. It is free to enjoy, but the Gaddy family gladly accepts donations for Toys for Tots and the March of Dimes.