Words by: Kylie Kinnett Photo by: DeKwaan Wynn
How did Mr. Bill’s Christmas Wonderland begin? Tell us your story!
As a child, I always looked forward to going around town and looking at the Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, the amount of decorations seemed to decline each year. In our busy world, it is hard to find the extra time, money, and energy to put up large displays and it takes a lot of all three of those things. In 1998 I decided to invest all three of those things into Celebrating Christmas. I started with just lights the first year, and each year after that I kept building something new. My son, Andrew, bought the corner house across the street from me and we then had two different themes.
I built a full size manger scene for Andrew’s house to show the reason for the season. Across the street at my house was a more fun, festive setup. This is really when Mr. Bill’s Christmas Wonderland began.
What part does the community play in the wonderland?
I have really been blessed by the community with donations to help offset some of the expenses. The Wonderland is definitely not just me. It takes me, my son Andrew, my neighbors, and the community to keep this display going year after year. We also are a Toys for Tots drop off and always get a lot of donations each year for that.
How does it feel to be a part of so many people’s Christmas memories and traditions?
Thousands of people come by each year to celebrate with us. The display has definitely become a yearly tradition for so many families. Each year I see young couples come by with their children and find out the parents came with their own families when they were little. I’ve had the honor of meeting so many wonderful people from all over the world while they are visiting family members in town for the holidays. I really would like to thank everyone for sharing their Christmas with us. It is genuinely nice to see my passion and hobby bring so many smiles to people’s faces.
How long does the preparation for the Wonderland take and what does your set up process look like?
As I get older and the display gets bigger, it takes longer each year. Since I can’t work as fast as I used to, I now start the decorating process at the beginning of October, starting with the lights on the house and trees. By week three, we bring out the first display, the workshop castle and get it set up and put in place. After that I begin getting all the lights and motors wired up. I try to have everything ready to be turned on by December 1st. Then, the display is ready for people to see from 6PM to 11PM until New Year’s Eve. I have had some trouble the last three years due to my health, but thankfully I have some great neighbors who have helped me out. If it wasn’t for them, I could not do this anymore!
What does the future look like for Mr. Bill’s Christmas Wonderland?
Truly, all I can say is I don’t know what the future holds—every day is a gift from God! I am 67 years old and have some health issues. But, I do know that while I am still able, I will continue doing this each year.