By Marty Gordon
Larry Parrish was 41 years-old when he decided to string Christmas lights around his extra-large satellite dish sitting to the rear of his home on Cove Hollow Road in Elliston. Now 31 years later, that simple display has expanded to more than 10,000 lights and 100 blow-up characters. His sister, Lillian Worrell, who lives next door, has joined in the show with almost as many lights and characters.
Now, though, all that is coming to and end.
Parrish is turning 72 and his sister is 79. “We’re just getting too old to continue to pull out the decorations every year,” he said. “So, this will be the last year. I hope someone will stop and buy the entire yard and set it up somewhere else,” he said.
“I really couldn’t remember what my first decoration was until someone stopped here the other day and reminded me. The guy said he came by that first year and has watched it grow,” Parrish said.
More than 4,000 icicle lights hang from the home, and Parrish ran an electrical line under the road so more decorations could be lit up on adjacent property he owns.
Thursday, he was busy straightening blow-up decorations the wind had knocked down.
“I get so much out of them by seeing the smiles on the faces that drive by,” he said.
Thousands of cars have driven by or stopped since 1988, and Parrish can’t even estimate the total number of people who have seen his decorations.
“Some nights there will be over 300 cars bumper to bumper. One night, we counted as many as 400 cars. I have talked with people that have been coming for 25 years. Some are three and four generations,” he said.
In 1992, Parrish added music on cassette tapes that continues today. Every year, his wife has recorded different songs so people can roll down their windows to listen to Christmas tunes as they view the light display.
Santa himself has made several visits to the Cove Hollow display, handing out candy canes to children that rode by.
In 1997, Parrish’s display was named the best in the area by the Roanoke Times.
The light displays, at 7619 and 7621 Cove Hollow Road, will remain up through the end of the year.