PONCA, Neb. (KCAU) – Thanksgiving may be just a couple of weeks away, but one Ponca man is already in the middle of setting up his elaborate Christmas lights display.
Gene Watchorn has set up massive Christmas displays for over two decades and was even the winner of the ABC show “the Great Christmas Light Fight” in 2018. And this year, Watchorn has hundreds of thousands of lights ready to dazzle holidaygoers.
“They always say the best kept secret in Northeast Nebraska,” Gene Watchorn said.
In the small town of Ponca, Nebraska, you’ll find a winter wonderland. Gene Watchorn is the man behind the nationally recognized displays.
“I’m 73 and like I say, I try to work at it a couple of hours a day from Labor Day till Thanksgiving and I have a stretch of every night for a month or so,” Watchorn said.
Watchorn got the idea to put up elaborate holiday decorations more than 20 years ago.
“Spoiling the grandkids, and that’s how we got started the first time. We had the grandkids, he was in kindergarten so we had his class come out from school just to tour and then we decided it was just too much for that so let’s open it up to everybody,” Watchorn said.
As the years went on, thousands of people caught wind of the Christmas decorations. Watchorn’s displays also won the Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC.
“It’s just grown over the years, but now we’re up to around 12 to 14 thousand (people) a year coming through. In 2018 we had that national TV, we had over 20 thousand (people) come through,” Watchorn said.
Watchorn doesn’t only have outdoor décor, he also has thousands of holiday knick-knacks and battery-powered trinkets.
“Takes over 12 hundred batteries to get everything charged up and then I’ll use another 400 batteries during the season, so between 15 to 16 hundred batteries,” Watchorn said.
And his outdoor display never fails to catch one’s eye.
“We’ll there’s over 300 blow molds, over 100 thousand lights and probably 50 to 60 blow ups and a little bit of everything,” Watchorn said.
Watchorn’s passion has brought the world to his doorstep.
“I get people from Africa, Germany, and Switzerland and from all over,” Gene said.
But it’s the reactions from those people that make it all worth Watchorn’s time.
“Makes me feel good and it’s just the smiles and kids and older people have a lot of smiles too and stuff,” Watchorn said.
Watchorn said there are more than two miles of extension cords outside for the displays, and the indoor and outdoor displays will be ready for folks to visit starting on Thanksgiving and will be open every day until December 31st.