By Zach Armstrong
DINWIDDIE, Va -- The Smith Grove Christmas Light Display, located at 24521 Smith Grove Rd. in Dinwiddie County, has caught the attention of people across the state of Virginia and is attracting thousands to the Petersburg Tourism district.
The Holiday Light Drive Through is a free-of-charge display that features inflatables, music playing in the background, a pond with a Christmas tree in the middle in addition to endless Christmas lights.
Dinwiddie locals Kenneth Lang and his fiance Carrie Wilkerson began to put up a winter wonderland with a magnificent display of Christmas lights on their property several years ago to bring the Holiday spirit just to neighbors. This year, after Petersburg’s tourism department advertised the light display on their facebook page, visitors from around the state found themselves drawn to it.
According to google analytics done by the Petersburg Area Regional Tourism, promotion for the light show this year reached 285,520 people; 160,000 views; 4,000 shares; 1,300 likes and 802 comments. Visitors have come from the areas of Hampton, Amelia, Amherst County, Emporia, Chase City, Nottoway Co., all over the Richmond area, and throughout the Petersburg City Area.
“I will say that when Petersburg Area Regional Tourism posted the video about the Smith Grove Light Display on its Facebook page,” said Martha Burton, tourism director at the Petersburg Area Regional Tourism. “The response has far surpassed any event or attraction that we have ever promoted in the region.”
Lang, who is originally from Chesterfield County and moved to Dinwiddie 12 years ago after residing in Lydenburg for 20 years, added more and more lights to his annual light show throughout the years. While Lang and Wilkerson never anticipated their event to grow as it did, they are happy to welcome so many to the community.
Although Lang and Wilkerson enjoy the attraction and plan on continuing the light show for next year, they are urging visitors to not park and only drive by the lights to reduce traffic. They are also considering making it exclusively a drive-by event starting next year.
“Typically we’ve always been a drive-by not a drive through but now people have begun parking because Santa’s here but it's starting to become too many people to accommodate for,” said Wilkerson.
According to Burton, the reason events such as these have caught on so easily is because everyone wants to feel joy at the end of what has been one of the most tumultuous years to date.
“I believe that people this year really want to be able to go out and see and feel something for Christmas that is normal and they want to feel safe enjoying it.” said Burton. “It is a wonderful gift that Mr. Lang and Ms. Wilkerson has given to this community and their willingness to share it with anyone and everyone is a tribute to their true Christmas spirit.”
According to Burton, large events such as this benefit the community by increasing interest in tourism activities in the area through click-throughs to the PART website where people from around the state find out about the Petersburg region’s dining, breweries, wineries, farm visits, trails, museums, shopping and the arts.
Kenneth likes to share a story about how the light show has grown between him and his neighbors. Once when he was at their home, he told their daughter he was tired of working all day to which she replied “Yeak me too, it wasn’t a problem until you moved in the neighborhood,”
“The reason that we do this is because of our joy for Christmas and we love being able to bring spirit and joy to other people’s lives because this has been such a negative year,” said Wilkerson. “Some that have come through here tell us they are so thankful this is happening because they themselves don’t even have a Christmas tree in their house,”
“Jesus is the reason for the season, we try to make it magical for everybody and we don’t want to forget who’s birthday we're celebrating on the 25th.” said Lang.
To arrive at the Smith Grove Light Show, turn off of Boydton Plank Rd onto Duncan Road all the way to Smith Grove Road. Once you’ve arrived, you won’t be able to miss the attraction.