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Arts & Culture
This article was excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Nightmare Before Christmas Town? McAdenville Family's Halloween Show Draws Crowds

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Ron Hammond
The Hammond family doesn't believe McAdenville's reputation for holiday lights should just be limited to Christmas.

Gaston County's McAdenville has fewer than 1,000 residents, but its reputation for holiday lights reaches far and wide.

In fact, it's earned the nickname Christmas Town USA. Traffic backs up on nearby roads every year as people from across the Charlotte region drive (or park and walk) through the tiny former mill town each holiday season to look at the many thousands of lights adorning residents' homes.

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Every year, McAdenville in Gaston County has so many holiday lights that it's known as Christmas Town.

Ron Hammond and his wife, Jessica, both loved Christmas so much that it was part of the reason they decided to move to McAdenville three years ago. And Hammond really likes tech, so it was a no-brainer that he'd want to participate in the Christmas light tradition.

But, he thought, why stop there?

In 2019, he decided to start earlier with the lights, putting up a Halloween display with 6,000 lights. It was a hit — and one he planned on resurrecting for 2020.

All things considered, though, last year's show was kind of tame.

"This year, we're up to about 14,000 lights," Hammond said. "We've got flamethrowers. We have moving heads."

And there's "almost a quarter-mile of wire" involved, he said. The roof of his house, alone, has about 2,000 more lights than it did a year ago. Oh, and there's a fog machine that puffs out mist that smells like candy corn.

The bursts of fire, the moving heads, the flashing lights — they're all sequenced to some pretty spooky music. Hammond set up a website where visitors can control the light show by selecting a song — "This is Halloween" from Tim Burton's classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Feed My Frankenstein" by Alice Cooper are a few options.

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Hammond Family Light Show
The Hammond house is seen during the day time as work to set up the Halloween light show was ongoing.

Hammond says he thinks of it like a jukebox. There's a catch, though: He's set it so that only people within a half-mile of his house can select music so that folks who actually make the trip in person have dibs via their smartphones.

Pulling the show together was no easy feat. It took Hammond about 125 hours over almost a month. He even took a week off from work to get things set up, sometimes spending as many as 12 hours in a day on his project.

But he said the reward is worth the effort.

"I just like seeing people happy — with everything that's going on in this world," he said. "It's a hobby for me. It's my escape from work. But just to see people – especially kids – just lighten up, and so many people are just out there dancing. It's so exciting."

It was initially so popular that Hammond cut the schedule back because of "traffic concerns" at his house. In the meantime, he's just been flipping the lights to static Halloween colors like orange and purple.

The next and final Halloween shows are Friday and Saturday nights, and he encourages people who want to check it out to park nearby and walk on over. He does, however, ask that visitors be respectful of neighbors and not park in front of any driveways.

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Ron Hammond
Visitors can control the Halloween light show at the Hammond house in McAdenville.

The Hammonds will be there to welcome visitors on Halloween. As of earlier this week, they were still floating around costume ideas. (Last year, they were the Griswolds from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" – who else, for Christmas Town?)

Though some people are wary of trick-or-treating during the coronavirus pandemic, Hammond says trick-or-treaters are welcome at his house during the light show.

"Some people had some good ideas of candy launchers and things like that, but I didn't make one of those," he said.

In case you can't tell, Hammond's pretty serious about all this. He's invested thousands of dollars into his light shows. But he can repurpose some of it for McAdenville's main event – and Halloween even gives him a head start.

"A lot of what we use for Halloween transitions right into Christmas," he said. "All we have to do is switch out some bats and skulls for snowflakes and stars."

The Hammond Family Light Show will take place at 508 Chamberlain Court in McAdneville from 7-10 p.m. Friday and from 6-10 p.m. Saturday. More information can be found here.

This story originally appeared in WFAE's weekly arts and entertainment email newsletter, Tapestry. Sign up here.

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