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Bill Kirby Jr.: Call it a Christmas tradition and family affair along Sylvan Road


To say it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the home on Sylvan Road would be something of an understatement.

Call it a family holiday display like you’ve never seen.

“I work really hard on making it better each year, because I like it a lot,” says JP Kells, the 11-year-old who has been at the heart of putting up this Yuletide ensemble of holiday decorations since 2015. “A lot of other people really like it, too, so I want to keep making it good each year for them.”

This holiday season is bigger than ever.

“We started this as a way for JP to explore his creativity and engineering interests,” John Kells says about his son. “We continue to support it because of the response we get from the community. The laughter we hear literally every night is just the best sound ever. So many people stop their cars or slow their walks to tell us how excited they are for the upcoming holiday.”

With an estimated 30,000 lights and 75 holiday inflatables, you might believe this is Santa’s workshop at the North Pole.

“We start setting up in November to have the display finished by Thanksgiving,” John Kells says about the display, which includes help from JP’s  mother, Lacy Kells; sisters Mary Prescott and Simmie; and paternal grandfather Dick Kells. “His other grandfather, Prescott Godwin, helps with obtaining materials with constant runs to Lowes. Friends who have helped out include his godfather, Scott Gainer; Hallie and Nate Bartlett; and Mary Kohlars.

“We have around 15 holiday songs that are synched to the lights, so when you tune your car radio to 105 FM, you’ll hear lots of fun music.

“We have had to learn a lot about the electrical part of it to get the sequencing of lights synched to the songs and still look good,” says John Kells, who is likely a favorite customer this time of year with folks at the Fayetteville Public Works Commission down on Eastern Boulevard.

To complete the holiday display, he says, takes about 50 hours, but JP Kells is hard at work long before anyone else.

“JP starts planning his display a year in advance in his head,” the youngster’s father says about his son, who is a student at Fayetteville Academy. “He knows where he’ll place things and new things he’s wanting to try. He starts prepping things months in advance, fixing broken light strands, inflatables and more.

‘To shine some light on the community’

This isn’t a wreath on the front door with a red ribbon.

This isn’t some candles in the windows.

This is a holiday undertaking.

“Over the years, he has gotten better at setting up small scenes within the display,” John Kells says about JP.

And this year, the decorations are more than ever.

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“He has a penguin set up where they hang around a lake of blue lights, a Snoopy section, a new Buddy the Elf and a Christmas tree. Even a little Hello Kitty grouping.”

There are two new 20-foot inflatables, including a nutcracker, a Yeti, and an archway that sings. The display has been extended around the driveway with dog and puppy inflatables.

And something else, John Kells says.

“We’ve added 10,000 more lights.”

Fundraiser on Dec. 18

And speaking of those lights.

“Last year, we had our first annual drive-by fundraiser,” John Kells says. “Anyone could drive by with a donation to Margaret Willis Elementary School or Project Hope and get hot chocolate and a gift bag with fun Christmas goodies. We felt like it was time to use the lights to shine some light in the community. JP raised over $1,000 for Margaret Willis Elementary, which was used to build a Mindfulness Room that is being used now in Cumberland County as a prototype for other schools. It is a safe and quiet room for kids who are dealing with trauma or other issues when they need a place to calm themselves and learn tools to cope with some of this.”

JP is aiming higher this holiday season. with hopes of raising $2,000 for Margaret Willis Elementary and Camp Trinity. The fundraiser is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 18 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

“We are hoping to help Margaret Willis school this year with whatever their biggest need is,” John Kells says. “One hundred percent of fundraising this year will be distributed to Margaret Willis Elementary School and the scholarship fund at Camp Trinity.”

This holiday display is something to see.

“It has become a tradition for a lot of people, and we get comments every year about how much people around town are looking forward to it,” John Kells says. “Grandparents bring their out-of-town grandkids every year. People make it a point to stop by at least once a season to see it now, and it’s become a small fixture in the community.

“Weekends are the busiest, but each night at least one family is out walking around, taking pictures and enjoying it, plus multiple cars that stop and listen. Every night we hear kids squealing and giggling, which is the best sound ever.”

There’s something else new among this year’s holiday decorations display on Sylvan Road: a “photo spot,” John Kells says, “where people can come and take photos so that people can become a part of the display.”


Suffice it to say that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the home on Sylvan Road would be something of an understatement.

Call it a family holiday display like you’ve never seen.

“Almost every day, there will be at least one kid walking by that likes to run up and point to one thing that they love and go crazy over it,” JP Kells says. “A lot of families stop their cars and get out and walk around the yard and take videos of it, which is really fun.”

Along Sylvan Road, it’s Christmas. And it’s a family affair for sure.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Fayetteville, Christmas, Sylvan Road, Kells