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franklin county times

Ring-a-ling – Christmas at the Bells brings smile after smile

FRANKLIN LIVING —

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!

It’s a merry Christmas indeed at 101 Kennerly Road in Phil Campbell, with the ring-a-ling-ling of Christmas bells, Santa’s laugh and countless sparkling lights. Christmas cheer is everywhere, visitors get the opportunity to experience the magic for free, and there’s plenty of it as far as the eye can see.

Christmas at the Bells is a drive-through Christmas display hosted by Kristie and Charles Bell and their family.

“I just wanted something for everyone to be able to come see and enjoy together,” Kristie explained. She said she was inspired to create the special lighting and decoration extravaganza in homage to memories from her childhood, visiting the Wrights’ house in Tuscumbia every Christmas – a large display many families made the tradition of visiting each year until it was discontinued a few years ago.

In addition to the festive fun with family, friends and guests, there’s a lot of sentimental value for Kirstie in bringing holiday merriment to their homeplace.

The place belonged to her grandfather, Doug McAllister, who passed away in 2018. Kristie and Charles, a youth league basketball coach, bought it a few years ago and even got married there, in a little white gazebo situated near the house.

Kristie’s father, Tony McAllister, said it’s really meaningful that Kristie and her family wound up living in the house and on the property where his father and stepmother lived for so many years.

“This is what it’s all about,” he explained. “The meaning of Christmas and everybody coming together with family and friends … Kristie and Charles do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They don’t ask for anything in return. They’re just giving a little joy back to the people around them.”

McAllister said his father always had lights for Christmas. “He and his wife lived out here for several years. They would love seeing what’s it become. It helps bring people together, and that’s something we need a whole lot more of these days.”

Festive spots along the way include Candy Cane Lane, the North Pole Post Office, a gingerbread house on Gingerbread Street and, of course, Santa’s Workshop. Snowmen and reindeer dot the path.

Be prepared to wait and enjoy taking it all in as you follow the lights and meander your way around the circular drive to witness the magic for yourself. Countless folks in the community come to see Santa and celebrate Christmastime in a truly memorable way. On a regular night, Kristie estimates they have 20-30 cars – “One night, we had been out of town, and when we got back, we had to wait in line to get back to the house,” Kristie said with a laugh – but they have even more on a special night when she and her family stay out for a meet and greet with visitors.

For Charles, although the grand display was his wife’s idea, it’s something he’s now equally passionate about.

“The first time I saw a kid pull into the driveway, and they were laughing and giggling and smiling, that was what really pulled me into everything,” he explained. “We love everything about it. It’s something we can enjoy as a family with our friends and neighbors and others in the community.”

Charles said the main Christmas tree started out as a “mere” 12 feet with 300 lights, but his wife and kids loved it so much, he has kept growing it each year, adding 10 more feet at a time and additional lights.

“There are 2,900 lights on each section of the tree now, and there are three sections,” he explained, “so about 12,000 lights as of last year.” They had to rent a lift to decorate the tree, and it took Charles all day to complete it.

Decorations and displays cover an estimated three acres out of the 10 acres the Bells have.

“It’s wonderful to see everyone enjoying it all so much,” Kristie said. “This place has really grown to be special, for all of us, and we’re so proud to be able to share it, not only with our family and friends but with the community.”

To find out more, join the event’s Facebook group, Christmas at the Bells.

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