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Berrien County's Winter Wonderland

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December 21, 2007

Berrien County - Michael Hand is Berrien County's EMA director, fire coordinator, and search and rescue chief.

But each winter, he takes on a fourth job that draws a crowd from all around the region.  "We've had them as far Tennessee to come and try to make it an annual event to come down here. All the surrounding counties. We just really enjoy them coming with us," Michael says.

It's a family tradition that's been going on for 20 years. Each year they string up over 100,000 lights. Each night about 100 people pass through, enjoying the sights, warming up by the bonfire, and giving Santa a Christmas wish list.

But each year could be the last.  "Every year we say we don't know if we are going to do it or not. It's been a blessing for us this year, and we are going to try to continue the legacy as far as we know at this time," Michael says.

Believe it or not, the electric bill for these lights doesn't come cheap. Neither do the decorations.

They don't charge for admission, considering this their Christmas gift for the community.

And what donations they do get, "We try and buy some gifts for families that don't have."

But they foot the bill in memory of loved ones lost and their love for the community.  "It's a tradition for a lot of people that have been coming since their children were babies," says Michael's wife Rhonda.

"We look forward to it every year.  I know I definitely do!" his daughter Nikki adds.

They say the smiles they see, and the stories they hear is enough payment to keep them going.

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