This past Christmas marked the end of a long-time holiday tradition in the Northern Berkshires. After illuminating his home in North Adams with a fabulous display of lights every December for the past three decades, Wayne Arnold decided that the 2022 season would be his last.
But before Arnold flipped the switch “off” last year, Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan paid a visit to the corner of East Main Street and Park Ave for one final look at the Arnold Family Holiday Lights display which has brought so much joy to thousands.
Hear Wayne Arnold reflect on three decades of holiday memories in a digital exclusive segment.
Read the full transcript:
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Main Street, North Adams is about as classic a New England downtown as there is anywhere. Only a few blocks long, with several buildings that date back over a century, it looks like a place that’s held on to its original, unique charm for decades — on the north side of the street, at least.
And when the holiday decorations are up, it’s easy to imagine Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey character running through the snow and wishing a merry Christmas to the old building and loan.
It’s the kind of downtown that, as the expression goes, people can set their watches to — in a good way.
Well, not too far from here on East Main Street is another place that during the holiday season, folks have been setting their watches, too, for over 30 years.
It’s probably a safe bet to say that in every town, in every county, in every state, there’s always that one person who takes their Christmas decorating skills to a level that far exceeds all of their neighbors.
But here in Massachusetts’ smallest city, the locals don’t seem to mind bestowing those duties upon one man. Of course, a collection like this one doesn’t accrue overnight.
Wayne Arnold, Arnold Family Christmas Display: I think the whole thing started when I was a kid. We used to go down and see my aunt every Thanksgiving and coming back home we go down the main street of Easthampton and they would always have their decorations up by then.
So, I always thought that was a pretty cool thing.
And when I became a homeowner, you know, I said, “Well, let’s try some decorations.”
So, the first year was probably five or six sets of lights around the pillars out front.
And next year, I made a whole bunch of handmade plywood picture type of decorations. And that’s led from 1988, 1989, from five or six things in the yard to almost 400 this year — not quite, though.
Brian Sullivan: Included in those nearly 400 decorations are over 1,000 extension cords, 1,200 feet of cable, and 12,000 lights.
And while this yard here on the corner of East Main and Park Ave in North Adams has become a destination for folks from all over for the better part of the past three decades, Wayne Arnold’s original intent was to just put some decorations out on the lawn.
Wayne Arnold: People really didn’t start coming on the lawn, I don’t think, until about four or five years after I started.
And that was actually quite by mistake, and people just started to come up on the lawn. So, then the following year I said, “Well, that’s a pretty good idea.”
So, we put a sign out front that said, you’re welcome to look around and see what there is.
Brian Sullivan: And see what there is they have done.
Kids and adults have been getting a kick out of walking through this ornamental maze of flashing lights and music for generations.
But all of the visitors to the property in 2022 would be the last to see this yard in all its glory, because sadly, all good things must come to an end.
It was a realization that Arnold had not from looking at his electric bill, but from seeing just how much work was involved in making a float for when he was chosen as grand marshal in the 2022 fall parade.
Wayne Arnold: While I was doing that, I said,” Yeah, this is it. I’m ready.” You know, athletes say they know when they want to retire, and I guess that’s the way it hit me.
Brian Sullivan: It remains to be seen exactly what happens with all of these decorations but one thing is for sure, 2023 marks the beginning of a new era here on this corner lot.
And while 467 East Main Street will just be another yard like any other, surely someone will take the baton and have a very bright future, at least during the month of December.
Wayne Arnold: Well, it’s probably going to be a dark yard, unfortunately.
But there’s people around, you know, there’s the Sampson house down the street. There’s other people that are — that seem to be doing more and more every year to keep the lights on.
So, yeah, there’s…there’s life after the Arnolds.