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Scenes of the season: Christmas with the McCollums delights visitors

Story and photos by María Camp

FRANKLIN LIVING—This will be the second year for Adam and Lesley McCollum of Phil Campbell to put out a large, extra-special Christmas display together; however, the family has a long-standing tradition of celebrating Christmas in a big way. It’s all part of Christmas at the McCollums.

In his childhood home in Tuscumbia, Adam learned to love Christmas at an early age. He said one of his favorite family traditions was going with his parents and grandparents to visit the extremely popular Wright’s house in Leighton to see the numerous lights and other decorations that filled their yard for many years during the Christmas season.

“That really inspired us,” Adam said. “When the Wrights decided to retire from it, there was nobody in place to continue the tradition. My parents and I started working on our own display. We bought some of their pieces to include with ours.”

Tim McCollum, Adam’s father, said the family “created our own tradition of decorating at our house and inviting the community to drive by. We kept it up at least 10 years – probably more. Our first piece was a big blow-up snow globe with people in it that Adam bought with money he earned. We probably got up to 150 pieces by the end of it. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed looking at everything, and it was fun knowing how many people loved it. The best part was how Adam would get so excited every time a car drove by to see the display. It was something special we did together, for ourselves and for the community.”

Tim had decided he was ready to retire the tradition around the time Adam and Lesley got married. After a year’s pause since they were married a few weeks before Christmas, Adam and Lesley relocated the tradition to their home.

They put up decorations their first Christmas in Phil Campbell but did not officially encourage visitors that year. Adam said they added the drive-through component of the display in 2019.

With the tradition having moved from Tuscumbia to Phil Campbell, the McCollums spread the word via their Facebook page. They have more than 1,300 followers, and they said they often hear from people who have enjoyed their displays and are looking forward to the next one.

“I actually put it in my marriage vows about continuing the tradition,” Lesley said. “Adam loves it all, and we love maintaining and growing this tradition together. Last year he got a special mailbox, and we put it up for letters to Santa. All those who left a return address on their letters received a reply from Santa. There were around 70-80 letters. People drove by pretty much every night. We had a special Meet and Treat night, and we helped as elves, talking to people who stopped and handing out candy canes with a note about the true meaning of Christmas. We had a steady stream of visitors for a couple of hours that night.”

On average the couple adds 10-15 new pieces each year. “We try to add something big every year, and we like to have a theme,” Adam explained. “This year, the theme is Whoville, and our new piece is the Grinch. Last year, it was the Nativity. We have a little bit of everything, including Smurfs, gingerbread and Charlie Brown” – the last being particularly important, as “I told Lesley I could give her a Charlie Brown Christmas. Maybe that helped convince her to marry me,” Adam quipped.

Adam said he thinks everyone needs a little bit of joy right now. “Everything is bigger and more impressive when you’re a kid – there’s a special magic to it all. This has been a rough year for everybody, and we hope our Christmas display will brighten people up a bit. We all need something positive to look forward to. I hope this will help give children as well as adults a reason to be happy.”

The McCollums said they want to encourage everyone to drive by and to get a closer look by following the circular drive. They usually start working on decorations around the first of November, with the scenes completed by Thanksgiving or the day after. The house is located at 5075 Gravel Hill Road. Additional information is available by calling 256-810-0425 or visiting the Christmas with the McCollums Facebook page.

The McCollums wish a merry Christmas and happy new year to all.

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