Christmas in Ansley
When Shanna Taylor began retrieving her Christmas decor from storage in 2017, she was devastated. Everything was ruined.
After years acquiring elements of the elaborate outdoor displays she loved putting in her yard, the humidity had damaged them.
Decorating for Christmas is Shanna’s favorite thing to do. She decorates her house, yard and hair salon for clients to enjoy. The lights and scenes in the Taylors’ yard — now known as Christmas in Ansley — have been a favorite tradition for many in the area.
Shanna was already upset about the decorations, and then she got a knock on her door from a little girl who lives down the road. The child wanted to know why there were no Christmas lights up that year.
“It just broke my heart,” Shanna says.
Seeing how much all of this upset Shanna, her husband, Aaron Taylor, made a decision right then and there. He had never really gotten excited about helping his wife put up the lights and displays, but suddenly everything changed.
“My grinch heart grew three sizes that year,” he says.
“He made up his mind that he would help me, and it became bigger than I ever thought it could,” Shanna says.
Lights all aglow
This will be the Taylors’ third year inviting people to drive through their 9-acre property to view the Christmas in Ansley light displays, though Shanna has been decorating for as long as anyone can remember. The Taylors decorate their entire 9 acres, creating Christmas-themed patriotic displays, a farm scene, gingerbread men and snow people, and finally, the nativity scene.
Different characters visit each weekend. They include the Grinch and Santa Claus, who takes photos with visitors in his custom-built sleigh.
Christmas in Ansley is donation-based because the Taylors believe the true spirit of Christmas is giving back. A concession stand does offer treats for sale. It is anchored by Shanna’s parents. Aaron’s mother is also known for making sure it is stocked with cornflake candy.
The Taylors’ 13-year-old son, Colt, runs the donation area and hands out candy canes to all of the visitors.
Although the donations help keep things running, the family also sells advertising spots to local businesses.
Light displays are customized with special characters to represent each sponsor. For instance, Mater from the Pixar movie “Cars” might represent a body shop, or snowmen made from tires could represent a tire business.
“People come through and love to see the local business displays,” Aaron says.
The Taylors estimate that in 2021 around 7,000 vehicles came through their property to see the lights.
Always in the Christmas spirit
Setting up the lights and displays begins mid-September. “I have no clue how many lights we actually use, but there are at least 1,500 feet of lights just along the fence,” Aaron says with a laugh.
They have around 300 blow molds, which are plastic figures with lights inside. The Taylors repurpose cheap or donated items, such as a Fisher Price playhouse that with paint turns into a gingerbread house or broken patio umbrellas they convert into Christmas trees.
The impressive light display grows each year, but the displays are truly a year-round labor of love because the family constantly works on the land, widening lanes, grinding stumps, taking care of undergrowth and performing other maintenance to make it possible to handle the crowds. Both Aaron and Shanna work full-time jobs — Shanna is a cosmetologist and Aaron is an engineering assistant for Alabama Department of Transportation.
The driving force that keeps the Taylors going year after year is seeing the joy on people’s faces.
Some of Shanna’s fondest memories are going to look at Christmas lights with her family as a child. One of the local places they loved to visit gained some popularity and eventually began charging $10 per person to get in.
“My dad had to turn to me and tell us we couldn’t go,” she says. ”I told him it was fine, and that one day I’d have my own place for people to come to.”
Now that Shanna’s prediction is a reality, she wants to make sure everyone who wants to has the chance to experience the magic of Christmas.
“My heart is for people to know what Christmas is about. Jesus is the reason,” Shanna says.
Bring the family!
Christmas in Ansley will welcome visitors Thanksgiving night until Dec. 27, 5:30-9:30 p.m., but it will be closed on Mondays.
Check the Christmas in Ansley Facebook page for updates!