A HOST of the magical Christmas lights display in Kootingal says she’s thrilled and thankful after more than $5000 was raised.
The Betts and Perkins families’ Gill St festive wonderland, which they’ve created annually for the past five years, featured displays, light shows, Santa visits and even a snow machine in 2017.
Visitors’ donations helped Nemingha Public School canteen buy new gear, which Kerrie Betts said was a heartwarming result from an event they loved putting on.
Husband Alan starts preparing the garden in October and the decorations in November.
Mrs Betts said they’d begun the tradition for their grandchildren, as her parents had done for their own grandchildren and continued for decades.
“We want them to also understand that Christmas is about giving and sharing, and we’re more than happy to share,” she said.
“Children say things like, ‘This is the best night of my life’ – really lovely things.
“We’ve had adults saying they just want to sit in a chair in the garden and look up at the house – which many people did.”
The idea of accepting donations was suggested by visitors, and the family has been passing on the proceeds to local schools.
Daughter and son-in-law Amanda and Trenton Perkins, and son and daughter-in-law Tim and Jan Betts, along with four grandchildren pitched in to create, set up and host the displays.
They held open nights throughout December, but Mrs Betts said their biggest night was on Christmas Eve – which also happens to be her birthday.
“There had to be at least 1000 people or more there – I had a very large birthday party on that night,” she laughed.
Mrs Betts said some of the highlights of Christmas 2017 were a group of parents and children doing a lights tour by bus; as did some retirement home residents and a group of people with disabilities.
There were the visitors from Canada and the United States who said the installation made them happy by reminding them of home.
There were the children who reminisced about what was in the display in previous years and marvelled at what was new.
There was even a father who went back the next day to ’fess up that his children had told him they’d broken a duck statue.
“We just said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s nothing a bit of glue can’t fix’,” Mrs Betts said.
“People are very, very respectful and very good; nothing usually gets broken.”
Mrs Betts said she wanted to thank all the people who had offered to help, all the visitors who were so full of Christmas spirit, and Santa who spent four nights with them to meet families and have photos taken.
Through mere gold-coin donations, the Gill St open nights raised “a massive $5164 for upgrades to the Nemingha Public School canteen” P&C fundraising and publicity officer Amy Crocker said.
“These funds made it possible for the P&C to purchase much-needed kitchen appliances such as a new oven, and to finalise kitchen renovations,” she said.