The winner for this year’s first annual Deck The Town holiday lights competition iis the Dobbs family at 444 South St. in Hope.

This Christmas season, the Main Street of HOPE committee started the competition with the major award being a traveling, lighted leg lamp identical to the one in the classic movie “The Christmas Story.” I was so happy to deliver the traveling leg lamp to the Dobbs home on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 22 and met Matt for the first time.

Then his story changed everything about this competition.

Matt Dobbs and his family had a son named Bradley, born in 1996, who died during the Christmas season of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. For that Christmas and several after, the Dobbs family had a very difficult time celebrating the season and finding any kind of joy. But after a few years, they simply made a decision that they needed to start finding joy in the season again and started putting up lights. And the decorating got bigger and bigger each year. It was a way that they could take a difficult situation and make it into something positive.

So Matt now uses three laptop computers to program his elaborate, synchronized lighting display, 360 hours of set-up (not including programing and design) and makes numerous, custom lighting signage including the most popular “Welcome To Hope” sign. His music is broadcast on radio channel 90.3 FM while folks watch the program. The display started on Thanksgiving night and will continue through New Year’s Eve. Weather depending, the display runs 6 to 10 p.m. each night, but due to some minor traffic jams on South Street recently, Matt runs the display past 10 p.m. if his fans ask. And they do!

And how much does this increase his electric bill? Due to all the lighting being LED, his monthly bill goes up about $12, which he is happy to pay.

A video is also available on youtube.com called Dobbs Festival of Lights 2018. But you really need to pile the kids/grandkids/neighbor kids in the car and just go see it. You need to see all the lighting displays in our surprising little town of Hope that were nominated, plus those on the town square, which are also synchronized to music.

It appears that the Dobbs family has taken a devastating personal tragedy and turned it into something that people of all ages can enjoy together. When the season approaches and Matt Dobbs starts to feel down about the memories of 1996, he simply goes out to his garage and makes another addition to the display. 

The Dobbs family moved to our community just over a year ago. Thanks so much to the entire Dobbs family, who have put so much joy into this season. It is the season for giving and maybe this year’s winner gave our town a tremendous gift of Hope and Joy. Welcome to Hope, Matt Dobbs and family. We love to have you and your fan club certainly loves your lights. Congrats and thanks for helping us find joy in this season of giving!