November 23, 2006
Lowndes Co.- 'Tis the season for holiday light shows, big shows with colored lights to brighten the season. But, have you wondered who keeps all those lights glowing?
Some people believe Christmas elves secretly travel from the North Pole to look after them. But an elf can look like an ordinary person, as he walks down Jingle Street USA, past the roller coaster, to add a little cheer to the season at Wild Adventures Theme Park.
"Starts at seven in the morning, every morning," says Ken Blevins, who has worked at the park for the past six years. This year, he spends a lot of his time maintaining five million Christmas lights, and that suits him just fine.
Christmas lights trigger special memories.
"I use to ride around with my parents and looked at them. I get some peace out of them," says Ken as he pushes a cart with numerous strings of lights and fuses.
His feeling of peace started all over again three months ago when Ken and seven others started decorating for Christmas, when the rest of us hadn't thought much about it.
"Start the day after Labor Day," says Ken, with 11 others who help out decorating the 170-acre theme park.
"Over five million lights in the park," says Ken and it takes more lights each year. Extra lights are added to handle tree growth, and they use lights commonly found in homes.
"These are your everyday house lights," says Ken.
Five million glowing lights seem to have minds of their own.
Sometimes a strand mysteriously slips to the bottom of a tree and needs restringing; a few of the five million chances for something to go wrong every day, and it does without fail.
Ken must have a hawk eye of sorts. He can see a burned out bulb before anyone else, even burned out bulbs behind leaves.
"Figure out why they are not being lit," says Ken.
Methodically, "This one is perfect," says Ken as he traces a strand of partially burning lights. "There's the problem right there."
A green, empty socket almost the same color as the leaves.
Something happened to the bulb.
"Sometimes people like to take them," says Ken as he inserts a replacement.
When he solves one problem, another one seems close at hand.
Something broke the top of another bulb, and he replaces it with one of the same color.
"Replace from 100 to 200 lights a day some eye-level, sometimes use a ladder to replace them," says Ken.
He doesn't want to replace the warm feeling he always gets when working with Christmas lights, even five million of them, because the light show must go on.