CHURCH HILL — Although roadside Christmas tree decorator Larry Williams scaled down his Bradley Creek project this year, he’s still hoping to achieve the Santa “seal of approval” when the big man visits on Dec. 20.
This is the 15th consecutive year Williams has decorated trees along the far north end of Bradley Creek Road near the Carters Valley Road intersection.
It started as a project for Williams and his daughter to share, but when she grew up and lost interest, he kept it going. At his height he was decorating more than 100 roadside trees per year.
It’s been getting harder and harder every year due to his declining health, but this year Williams and a few helpers managed to get more than 30 trees decorated. He’s staying closer to the road and playing it safe, but what he lost in quantity he tried to make up in quality.
Several of the trees are illuminated at night with solar-powered lights, and there are three banners — including a manger scene, “Happy Birthday Jesus” and “Merry Christmas” — that are also decorated with solar-powered lights.
“We didn’t do as many as we did last year, but I’m proud to get what we got done,” Williams told the Times News on Monday. “I’d like to thank the people who came by and stopped to show their appreciation, and tell us about how much they did like it. I want to thank my sisters, two of them, for helping me a lot. Sherry Bruce helped a lot.”
For obvious reasons, Williams doubted most of the year whether this year’s Christmas tree project would happen.
“Once October and November got here, it’s hard to quit,” he said. “We’ll try to do it again next year if at all possible. Next year it will be bigger and better hopefully. We’ll just have to try to find some young elves to get up on the hill.”
For the past several Christmas seasons, Santa Claus, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Williams, has hosted a roadside meet and greet at the Bradley Creek Road Christmas tree location.
Santa was on the fence this year about returning for the event due to pandemic concerns, but Williams managed to talk him into it as long as it’s a drive-by visit.
The public is invited to visit Bradley Creek’s decorated Christmas tree area on Sunday, Dec. 20, beginning at 11 a.m. for a drive-by Santa visit. Children will receive treat bags on a first-come, first-served basis, and Santa is expected stay until about 2 p.m.
Although Williams is in a high-risk category due to his health and age, he told the Times News he couldn’t bring himself to cancel the Santa visit.
“It thought it would be a good idea just to have kids drive by rather than have kids come sit on (Santa’s) lap,” Williams said. “Protecting them and protecting (Santa). They’ll just drive up and get their treat bags, and say hi and bye and Merry Christmas.”
Last year a local mom had scheduled a visit with Santa for her daughter at an area department store, but when they arrived at the store they were told that Santa had already left.
“The only picture she had made with Santa last year was out here,” Williams said. “She really appreciated it. You’d be surprised at the number of people who stop and say they’re used to stopping every year. It makes their day. That’s true. It really is.”
Williams added, “Just to have somebody pull up and tell you how much they like it and appreciate it, and look forward to it — it makes it worth you trying to do it. God bless us, we need something this Christmas. A lot of people aren’t going to be together at Christmas, and I just want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas.”