Breckenridge Texan

Possum Hollow hosts annual Christmas lights display

Possum Hollow hosts annual Christmas lights display
December 23
11:17 2018

Every Christmas season for the past 25 or 30 years, maybe a bit longer, many residents of Breckenridge and the surrounding area have driven out to see the holiday lights show that has been put on by a family at Possum Kingdom Lake.

Several of the lights displays reflect in the waters of Possum Kingdom Lake at Possum Hollow. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/ Breckenridge Texan)

When their daughter was a young child, Tracie and Jim Bittle were often busy working and didn’t always have time to drive to Wichita Falls to see the Christmas lights. So they decided to create their own display of lights at Possum Hollow Camp, a restaurant and campground that is a member of the Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce and owned by Tracie’s dad, Mike McNallen.

As their daughter grew up, the lights display grew, too. “It started out small,” Jim says. “We had three little scenes out here on the park, and it’s just grown. We add something new every year.”

The lights start at the entrance to the campground and continue all along the roadways between the restaurant, cabins and RV sites, as well as along the resort’s shoreline and park area. There are dozens of mini displays this year, ranging from Nativity scenes to Santa’s workshop. Visitors can drive through a tunnel of lights and get out to take pictures with the displays.

Additionally, as they drive through Possum Hollow, visitors can tune into Jim’s low-frequency radio channel to listen to Christmas music that is coordinated with parts of the display. Look for signs posted at the entrance for the station to tune in to. Possum Hollow is about 25 miles from Breckenridge; to get there, drivers can take FM 1148, which intersects with State Highway 67 about 11 miles north of U.S. Highway 180 East, at Ivan.  The address is 4801 Possum Hollow road.

Jim says he has no idea how many lights are in this year’s display. “Every year, we say we’re going to count them, but we never get around to it,” he says.

The entire project takes about a month and a half to get set up, and Jim continues working on it throughout the holiday season. They launch it every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, with a visit from Santa, and keep it turned on until the week after New Year’s Day. It turns on just before dark and stays on until about 10:30 each night.

Tracie explains that in the beginning, the lights were the project of her husband and her mom, the late Verdene McNallen. “Jim’s very crafty. He made the cut-outs, and my mom painted them. She was the painter,” Tracie says.

Now, 30 or more years later, the whole family is involved, including their daughter and her family, Mandy and John Sivak and their kids, Jacob and Avery. Tracie’s mother died in 2012, but Verdene’s sister, Jeri Rymer, is creative, as well, and has taken over the painting. The Possum Hollow campground and restaurant crew also help with the lights.

For many years, the family used the same decorations, but in 2011, the wildfires at Possum Kingdom Lake destroyed the house where everything for the lights show was stored, and they had to start anew, building up their collection. They immediately started recreating the handmade displays and have had several scenes donated by area residents, businesses and churches. This year’s new addition is a white Nativity scene donated by a church down the road from Possum Hollow.

Some of the displays in the Possum Hollow lights project were donated, including this Nativity scene. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Although the sentimental loss was tremendous to the family, one benefit to having to start over is that they’ve replaced the old incandescent lights with LEDs, which are brighter and use less electricity, Jim says.

There’s no fee to drive through the campground to see the lights. “When we see all the little kids running around…the looks on their faces…it’s worth it,” Jim says.

Click here to see Breckenridge Texan’s photo gallery of the Possum Hollow lights display.

 

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: The family and crew that own and operate Possum Hollow Camp and Restaurant put on an extensive lights display every Christmas season at Possum Kingdom Lake. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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