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Pilot Mountain Christmas

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Photo and Article in Mount Airy News Paper

Mt. Airy News, The (NC)

November 30, 2008

Charpiats ready to brighten the holidays

PILOT MOUNTAIN - As has become a Thanksgiving tradition for Larry and Rachel Charpiat, the couple postponed their family festivities for one day in order to set the day aside for welcoming guests to their own interpretation of a "Pilot Mountain Christmas." "The family will be here," Rachel Charpiat explained, "even though we won't have our traditional meal until Friday.
They'll be helping us welcome everyone. We all enjoy that. The opening and closing nights are always family events for us and they'll help us whenever they can over the next month." The evening served as the kick-off for the Charpiats' expansive display of holiday lights, music and animation this year. Thousands of visitors from throughout the region are expected to drop in during the coming weeks to enjoy the old and new displays and to take a stroll through "Santa's Enchanted Forest." This marks the couple's fourth year of hosting a display in Pilot Mountain after moving here in late 2004. The move was a return to home for Rachel Beck Charpiat who grew up in the area as one of nine children of Emmett and Mary Beck. She and her husband brought along their extensive collection of Christmas lights and characters, much of which had been gathered by Larry Charpiat during decades of hosting elaborate displays at his home in Florida.
That collection has continued to grow in recent years as the couple has incorporated the two acres of woods, outbuildings, fields and lawn surrounding their home on N. C.
268 East, two miles from its junction with Old Highway 52 By-Pass. The couple has continued to add to the lights and colors with new items found and old favorites long stored away and almost forgotten.
"This year," Larry Charpiat noted, "I've added underground wiring and 42 additional outlets. We've expanded parking and added some lighting for that." Those extra outlets have already been put to good use as the Charpiats are introducing such new attractions as an animated Disney-themed "Mickey's Playhouse," accompanied by new carousel and Ferris Wheel displays in an expanded "Santa's Workshop" area.
The couple's "Florida Christmas" area, a tribute to the couple's prior home, has also been expanded. Other new attractions include numerous Christmas trees, blow-up displays, animation and lots of lights.
"We have a lot more this year," Rachel Charpiat noted, "especially lights. We probably have close to 100, 000 lights now." "And we've added a lot of LED lights this year," Larry Charpiat added. "That makes everything brighter." The display has always been a creative undertaking for the couple and they have continued to refine the routes, adjusting lighting and location to improve appearance and to create imaginative theme areas.
And the effect had on family members of all ages has been their reward.
"We love to see the expressions," he continued, "especially on the faces of the children.
You can see the joy it brings. It's a family atmosphere and we want this to be something that puts the whole family in a holiday spirit." While youngsters are dazzled by the thousands of bright lights and images, Charpiat says he has also noticed a feeling of nostalgia for older visitors as they watch some of the classic animated Christmas figures and scenes.
He noted that they often take a moment to share memories with grandchildren of longago store fronts filled with animation each holiday season.
While the animated windows are always popular, the Charpiats list among other top attractions their "snow machine," a large nativity scene and the "Santa's Enchanted Forest" trail with its archway entrance.
For the Charpiats, the display is a labor of love, bringing people together in celebration of their favorite time of year.
They estimate that some 5, 000 guests visited the display last year and look for that number to continue to increase this time. Churches are invited to bring youth groups and, on Dec. 7, the Brim's Grove Baptist Church Youth Group will be on hand to sing Christmas Carols.
"This year, we've already heard from people who said they were coming back and bringing her friends," Rachel Charpiat laughed. "It's like a reunion every year and we look forward to seeing everybody." "This is a special time of year," she continued, "when we celebrate Jesus' birthday.
It's a good time to bring people together to enjoy the season and to remember what Christmas is all about." The display will be open from now through Jan. 1.
There is no admission but donations are accepted. Hours are from 6 to 10 p.m. each night and sometimes longer on weekends. More information on the display, along with directions and plenty of pictures, can be found at www.pilotmountainchristmas.com.