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Local boy’s decorations light up the neighborhood

By Jonathan Pleasant
The holiday season is a time for traditions that can often date back hundreds if not thousands of years. Whether carving a Thanksgiving turkey, decorating a Christmas tree, or watching the ball drop at New Year’s, there are dozens of time-honored practices that families use to celebrate. Possibly one of the most common traditions of the past century has been the practice of stringing lights and decorating the outside of homes with beautiful ornaments. In some cases it may be just a single strand of icicle lights hanging from the eve, while others may light up the whole neighborhood. Regardless of how big or how small, the familiar twinkling of Christmas lights is certainly a symbol of the holidays.
It was because of this exciting appeal that 13-year old Dalton Atwood of the Cold Springs community first started putting out his own decorations eight years ago. Adding more and more each season, Atwood’s decorations have almost become an attraction in their own right, with nearly a hundred different individual pieces ranging from over a dozen different animatronic reindeer, to this year’s most recent piece, and Atwood’s current favorite, a beautifully lit LED peacock.
Although the family lives high up on a hillside all the way at the very end of Tobacco Road near the Mountain City Animal Shelter, Atwood’s parents, Tracy and Christie, explained that record numbers of people are making the drive to see their son’s work. “We’ve been getting at least three or four cars a night,” Tracy said. “It’s turning into a job for us but the kids really love it.” For Dalton’s mother, Christie, it has been a great opportunity to fellowship as visitors come to see the lights as she gives out copies of the Christmas story along with a warm welcome.  “It really makes Dalton happy and it makes us happy,” Christie said.  “We’re so far out of the way nobody knows, so we figure if they’re going to come up here they’re going to get some hot chocolate and candy canes and really get to enjoy it.”
Although it has grown into something special, Atwood’s decorations began small, starting with a simple plastic snowman that his grandmother gave him when he was just five. Even at that young age, it was obvious that decorating was something Dalton loved to do, leading him to save up his money and add to his growing collection. “My Grandma gave me the little plastic snowman and the Santa Claus on the porch and that’s what got it all started,” Atwood said. “I just like it because it gives me something to do and a lot of people like to see it. My dad helps me on the icicle lights but I do everything else. A lot of people give me lights that they didn’t want and we order a bunch, too.”
From twinkling swans on a pond made of bulbs, inflatable snowmen, and a tree made entirely of lights to a fully decorated porch that blinks in time with popular Christmas music, Atwood’s display has really come a long way from the handful of decorations he initially began with, and there are no plans to stop now. In fact, Dalton sets up so many individual decorations that it takes about four weeks just to get everything in place, leading him to begin all the way back in October. Yet, possibly the most amazing thing about the whole story is that Dalton has not only acquired all the decorations himself, but also does all the installation and set up. “He wires it all in, puts it all up, and sets each piece,” said Dalton’s, dad Tracy. “We’ve got a lot of wind up here too, so you’ve really got to fasten them down or they’ll be in the woods. My biggest job is to store all this once it’s over. That is pretty challenging.”
Atwood’s dedication and hard work are paying off with the many bright, happy smiles he gets to see on the faces of those who come by to take a look. What began as a small tradition born out of love continues to grow into something truly unique, standing as another bright shining reason that the holidays are so special. “His grandmother really loved to decorate and she got him into it,” Tracy said. “It’s just grew and grew ever since. He works and works, and works, everyday. The taking down takes a while and we do help with that. He’s in middle school now and we thought he would out grow it but he just puts out even more.”