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Elgin Lights welcomes families for Christmas
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Paul Towns wife, Sarah, created this light display in honor of those affected by breast cancer. This display is one of seven. - photo by Tenell Felder

A winter wonderland.

That’s one way to describe Paul Town’s house during the Christmas season.

For 15 years, Towns has invited the community in to enjoy the 30,500 lights display that he, his family and friends create.

Not only are there lights, but Towns has a tractor display, a 1930s tool shop display, toy trains, pictures with Santa, a blacksmith demonstration and hayrides for guests to enjoy -- all free of charge.

Towns eagerly shares his Christmas display with the community. He knows the intricacies of each section and cheerfully shares tidbits of information about his vast collections of antique tractors and trains for guests.

"This is a special year because it’s our 15th year. We’re hoping to go for quite a few more … if it weren’t for my kids I don’t think it would have happened," said Towns.

Towns has been battling cancer since 2004. The sickness has taken a toll on the energy he needs to decorate the 6 acres for Christmas.

"The type I have never really goes away… I have a little golf cart so I point and coordinate during decorating," said Towns about how friends and family have stepped in to help.

The display of lights is divided into different sections including a military tribute section, a breast cancer section, a cartoon section and a special section for Camp Kemo.

The Camp Kemo display honors Columbia native Cole Sawyer and Jeanne Schmidt. Towns designed the display.

"Jeanne, the director of Camp Kemo, passed away suddenly. We’re doing a special area in our yard for her and Cole. We have vinyl posters of them and two angels holding them out with blue and yellow lights (Camp Kemo colors)," said Towns describing the display.

Camp Kemo’s mission holds a special place within Towns’ heart. When Cole passed away from cancer, Towns decided that he wanted to "keep Cole’s dream alive."

"He would raise money by selling bumper stickers to send kids to Camp Kemo," said Towns.

Towns stresses that he aims to provide a festive Christmas experience for families without charging. However, if people are willing and able to donate to Camp Kemo he appreciates it.

"We don’t ask for any money, my wife and I take care of the costs (of the decorations) ... we have an old milk can with a picture of Cole Sawyer for donations. One hundred percent of the donations go to Camp Kemo," said Towns.

Donations from Elgin Lights sent 13 children to Camp Kemo last year.

Elgin Lights will be open to the community from Saturday until Christmas Eve, 6 to 9 p.m., at 2433 Charlie Horse Circle, Elgin.

Towns encourages people to bring their families to Elgin Lights.

"We have around 350 cars a night come through. We have churches that bring buses ... Everything is wheel chair accessible," said Towns.

Towns jokes about the number of lights they display.

"If your lights go off, its because we turned our lights on," said Towns.