Those who have been in the Upstate awhile may remember going to Pelzer to see the Light People on Adger Street. For many families, the trek to see the Pelzer lights was a decades-long family tradition at Christmastime. To bring good cheer to 2020 — a very unusual year — the family behind the Light People has gathered with friends to reignite the magic this holiday season.
The Light People first lit up in 1990, according to Michelle Watson, a member of the family behind the tradition. For over two decades, the Watson family donned light suits — clothes which the family had attached Christmas lights to — and ventured into their yards in the evenings, extension chord and all, to wave at passersby as they drove by in their cars. It was just one house in a neighborhood full of decorated homes.
It all began with Louise Watson — known as Granny Watson — and her wish to give back to her community, said Michelle Watson in an email.
“Her son-in-law helped her by suggesting this wonderful idea that has turned into one of Pelzer’s greatest Christmas traditions. This tradition was carried on by family and friends for 24 straight years,” Michelle Watson said.
The first suit had about 1,000 lights on it. The family experimented with the number of lights to eventually make the suit easier to wear, according to Michelle Watson. Each night, Louise Watson and the family would take the suits from a room in her house before going out to greet the folks who had come to see the lights in Pelzer.
The family hadn’t gone out in their light suits for several years. Louise Watson died in 2018 at 92.
Due to the stress of 2020, the family decided to relight. This year, the Light People can be seen each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 7 and 9 p.m. at Lebby Street in Pelzer. Donations collected each night will go to causes close to the Watsons’ hearts — like families in need in the Pelzer community.
The move to Lebby Street will hopefully free up the long lines of traffic that usually went along with seeing the neighborhoods in Pelzer lit up, according to Pelzer’s Mayor Will Ragland.
Ragland said they’ve been jokingly referring to putting on the suits as “getting lit.”
A couple of weeks ago the Light People did a test run. Ragland said he saw them from quite a distance as he drove toward them.
“When I was driving down the street to come look at them — I mean, you could see them from really far away,” said Ragland. “It is stunning.”
The best part, Ragland said, is seeing people smile and wave as they pass the Light People. It’s an organic event that’s not planned by the town, he said — just organized by people wanting to bring in some cheer.
Some of the spectators park across the street from the Light People and hang out for a while. “Some of them stayed the whole time,” said Ragland. “Like the whole two hours with their families, just watching the light people dance with music and see all the cars come by. It’s just been wonderful. It’s been great.”
“One thing is still the same no matter what changes, and that is the smiles on people’s faces,” said Michelle Watson. “When you see and feel the atmosphere around this event you will understand why people give of their time for something that is monetarily non-profit.”
In return for bringing the holiday tradition back, the Watsons simply ask, “What will you do for someone else this year?”