The Bottoms family tradition – it’s all for the kidsPosted December 14, 2009 at 12:16 PM, Filed Under: BCA News, Community News, Village Mill
By Wendy Parker
“It’s all for the kids,” says Buck Bottoms of the extravagant, blinking holiday decorations that illuminate and cover every square foot of the front yard of his Long Hill Road property. Judging by the stream of vehicles—some without children—that round the cul-de-sac each night, he would do well to add, “and adults, too.” Or perhaps Buck is referring to his own kids, Hunter, Jonathan, and Ashley, who join him starting in October, planning and installing dozens of inflatable characters, reindeer, hand-made mini-Christmas trees, a life-size Santa, and up to 80,000 lights.
Buck says the family decorating tradition began over 10 years ago with the purchase of one little holiday decoration. He points to a wooden reindeer head with a glowing red light bulb nose that he and his wife Elizabeth bought at a garden shop. Each year after, he says, he began adding new decorations and lights, and the when the children were old enough they all pitched in to help.
Now, 21-year-old Hunter is the one who takes the lead in coordinating their enormous annual decorating project. He tends to every detail, from checking the wiring and outlets, to replacing worn-out bulbs—no minor task, as he points out that there is one string of colored mini-lights for every single clapboard on the house.
Almost every year since they began decorating, the family has been recognized in the BCA Holiday House competition. They usually take the “Children’s Favorite” category and one year they captured the grand prize.
Their house is consistently on the annual Richmond Tacky Light Tour, as it is this year, and is listed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. But their greatest achievement was in 2006, when the family won the national Tacky Light Tour sponsored by www.tackylighttours.com. “They drove all the way up from Georgia to hand us our trophy!” says Hunter.
When a truck pulls up out front, a man calls out, “How much is your electricity bill?” When Hunter offers a ballpark figure, the man replies, “I’d like to thank you for my bonus this year—I work for the power company.”
According to Buck, his electricity bill skyrockets from about $250 to over $700 for their annual endeavor. He doesn’t have a true cost of all the lights and decorations, and upgrading his power service 100 amps, but some collectible inflatables are worth hundreds of dollars. He dismisses the cost and all the hard work, saying again, “It’s all for the kids.”
We can’t really stop,” says Hunter. “I want to install 400 amps, and I want to have more lights than any house in Richmond.” He adds, “I’ve already called Walmart to see when their lights will go on sale.”
Buck has a twinkle in his eye when he reports that his wife might sometimes say, “We’re not going to do this any more.” But Buck recalls how this past Thanksgiving weekend, an eager little boy stopped by and asked when the lights would be turned on. “Hopefully tomorrow,” Buck told him. Sure enough, the little boy showed up all excited the next day, saying, “See, I told you I’d be back!”
“That’s why we’re doing this,” Buck says, looking with pride at his family. And again, he says, “It’s all for the kids.”
Editor’s note: lights will be turned on at 14309 Long Hill Road Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m. Winners of the BCA Holiday House competition will be posted on the BCA website , www.brandermill.com Dec. 15.