Saturday, December 21, 2013

Just One More Show

Since I last wrote on Monday, I had a huge disappointment.  I was told by the producers of "The Great Christmas Light Fight" that they were "95% sure" they were going to use my song on their show.  I thought it would be at the home of decorator Michael Simmons in California, because he is the one who contacted me and told me that he had asked to use my song on his portion of the show.  But alas, my friends and fans and I waited through almost the whole show to hear, not my song, but
Deck the Halls.  I had been so excited, but then I was so disappointed I cried.  But then I got up the next day, had a nice morning with the Charpiats, and drove off to my brother-in-law's house in Greenville and spent three fun days with him and my sister-in-law and that was just what the doctor ordered.  I also got to see my good friend Barbara and perform at show at the school where she is a music teacher. and that was good for my soul.

Tonight I just finished up a show with a HUGE crowd at Lake Myra Christmas, which is actually in Wendell, NC.  Over the past 24 hours or so I've gotten to be friends with Don Williams and his buddy, Joe, who put on this huge display every year in the middle of town.  Both  Don and Joe have battled personal challenges in the past year, and they told me that putting on the display saved their sanity. It's obvious that it's good for the town, too.  It's completely synchronized and you should see the faces of the little kids who come to see it.  Don even built a stage right in the middle....last night he had a local clogging group perform on it, and tonight it was me.  What fun!  The little kids sat on a tarp right in front of the stage and I got some of them to come up and dance with me.  I still haven't found a kid who can sing all of Frosty the Snowman, but I give an "A" for effort to the sisters who tried tonight!  At the end of the evening I was sad to go.  It meant a lot for me to be here in North Carolina, visiting family and old friends and making new friends.  I'll be sad to leave in the morning.

But tomorrow it is on to Pennsylvania and Jason Reph's display in Nazareth.  I think this will be my third time there, and it's always a good time although it's usually FREEZING out there!  Quite a difference from the 65 degree temps here in NC tonight.  I'll be all bundled up.  I hope people come out! Then I'm leaving right after the show and heading home, where my family that I made awaits, including my two wonderful daughters, two kitties, a doggie and a hamster....and my terrific hubby.  I love you all, decorators and audience, but you know...as Dorothy said....there's no place like home!

Monday, December 16, 2013

To My Decorator Friends

This year I have only embarked on a limited tour, given that the famous Sienna has 436,000+ miles on it.  After last year's transmission fiasco I wasn't even going to go out at all this year, but I just couldn't miss the opportunity to see my friends.....yes, after all these tours they are truly my friends...south of the Mason-Dixon line this year.  So I went to Gloucester, VA for XTRA 99's Third Most Funnest Christmas Concert EVER! and had the best time I've ever had there.  What fun it was to butcher "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Neal Steele and Pastor Mike!  And to see the many people who listen to Neal and Reese and have become my fans and facebook friends because of the support they've given my music.  I don't take it for granted and I never will.

Then it was on to William Bottomley's High Country Lights in Ennice, NC.  It was my fourth year there and I've seen his little boy Tyler grow up through the years.  William has built this event from a simple concert in the Fire Department lot to a huge indoor extravaganza with an big supper to support the elementary school, Santa, and even the Chik-fil-a cow!  And his lights this year!!  I sat in the parking lot across the street for an hour in the van just watching them.  For video, check out my facebook page.  Just amazing!

And now I'm staying with my friends Larry & Rachel Charpiat in Pilot Mountain. Their display is one-of-a-kind, as far as I know.  A one acre lighted parking lot at their house!  Park, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate on the house, and walk through two acres of enchanting and whimsical lights and displays. And these two retirees put it all up and take it all down themselves.  It's practically an amusement park, and night after night cars full of folks make their way here. I'm sure it's a Christmas tradition for many families.  But Larry & Rachel don't charge a fee, they do it all out of the goodness of their hearts to make something special for the community.  Larry told me this morning, "Sometimes you see the look on the face of a child getting a cup of hot chocolate, and you can tell they've never had one before, and it just lights them up."  And that's why they do it.  That's why all the wonderful decorators I've met in the US and the UK and Canada do it.  To make children light up brighter than the lights, and bring smiles to the faces of the grownups and make them feel like kids again.  It's a wonderful thing to see.  You should have heard the laughter ringing throughout this place last night.  "The joy it brings is more than money can buy" for SURE!!

I'm reminded, as I reflect, of Jimmy Buffets's Christmas song "Merry Christmas, Alabama (Never Far From Home)" wherein he sings about all the places he's been to during his long career and how he feels like he's never far from home because he's been welcomed in so many places.  I'm blessed to feel that way, too.  When I started doing "The House on Christmas Street" tours I was looking for a way to promote my song and thank the decorators who put it on the map. But for me, over these past four years, it's become so much more.  I've been welcomed into so many folks' homes and lives, and each family has been a blessing to me from Florida to Washington, Pennsylvania to California, Texas to Minnesota and all the places in between.  How fortunate I am to have made these connections with wonderful people who have such good hearts, all because of my little song.  I've grown to love some of you and think of you as family.  You know you love someone when you're about a mile from their house and you find that you are suddenly smiling without even thinking about it.  That's how I felt driving up to Pilot Mountain.

Whether I've visited your home one time, or several times over the years, know that each of you has touched me in a deep and profound way.  Your love of Christ, your joy in Christmas, and your generosity to your community by pouring your money and your energy into creating a display to be enjoyed by total strangers every year...and which, most times, benefits a charity...all of it has impressed and warmed me.  So even if "The House on Christmas Street" never becomes the hit I've dreamed of, my life has been so much better because of YOU.  I'm one lucky person.

Thank you all, and Merry Christmas!

Judy
Pilot Mountain, Dec. 16th, 2013

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 23 Reph's Family Winter Wonderland

The good news today is that my husband and daughter are on their way home with the van.  Their estimated arrival time in Brooklyn, where she lives, is  about 3pm.  I hope he stops and sleeps there for awhile.  I hear they drove all night.  So worried.

I realized last night that I have not yet written about my last concert on the tour, at Reph's Family Winter Wonderland in Nazareth, PA.  I cannot be remiss! Especially since it was a great way to wrap up the tour!

I only had a two hour drive between Manheim and Nazareth, so I spent some time in the morning Christmas shopping, then headed over.  I was really looking forward to visiting them, as I had been to their house on the 2010 tour.  Jason Reph is a young man in his mid-20's who is a firefighter, like his dad, and lives with his folks in Nazareth on Firehouse Lane (of course).  I love Jason's sense of humor, and his love of trains and his display, and on that first tour I was struck by how similar he was to Darrel Moyer, another decorator who hosted me in 2010 and who lives only about 90 minutes from Jason. Since then, they have become online friends but had never met in person until the night of my concert this year.  I suggested that we all get together for pizza before the show, and Darrel and his parents made the drive to Nazareth.  Well, it was like they'd been pals all their lives.  The families and I went out to eat at a lovely Italian restaurant where I was treated to one of my favorites, eggplant parmesan.  Everyone was chatting away except poor Jason's dad, who was pretty quiet the whole time.

Jason's mom is a hoot. She has lighted Christmas houses just about everywhere inside the house, and with Jason's train layout it is just as decorated inside as it is outside.  But oh, the outside! It can't be captured all in one photo, but I tried:


I wish I had taken more pictures, but we spent a little too much time at dinner, and by the time we got back to Jason's it was late!!  I ended up starting around 7:20 ish.  We had a good crowd, but it was difficult to see because it was just so dark where the audience was.  However, I know it was more people than we had the last time I was there, and that's great. It's building!  Thanks, Jason, for working so hard on getting the publicity done.
There was a TV crew there and I got interviewed before the show.  They did a really great piece, and you can see it here:
http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/Grammy-nominee-celebrates-the-season-with-front-lawn-concert/-/132502/17885370/-/pv8pyqz/-/index.html


 Jason had invited Santa, and that's always fun, but I have to admit, this Santa was just a little too clingy for me.  He kept coming over while I was singing and grabbing on to me!  I mean, I know I've been asking for a van from all the Santas I met along the way, but this guy got a little too close for comfort!  (Don't worry Jason, it's ok!  I just have a thing about personal space...even with Santa!)

Jason's Mom handed out hot cocoa and once again I had to have one just to keep my hands warm.  To be honest with you, the night was a blast but I think it was the absolute coldest I got on the tour.  I was so cold that I felt completely ill by the end of the autographing.  Luckily Jason and Darrel took care of packing everything up for me and loading it in to the rental. THANKS GUYS!!   I told Jason that if he wants me next year he's  gotta have a space heater set up like Paul Wood did at Edge-WOOD lights in Anderson, Indiana.  In fact, I don't want to be a diva, but I think I gotta make that a provision for all shows where the temperature is likely to get below 35 degrees!  I mean, yeah, I'm a New England gal and all that, but that doesn't mean I LIKE freezing!  When you go in the house and your fingers and toes are just HURTING because they are thawing out, I don't think anyone really enjoys that!!   Plus it makes it awfully hard to hold the pen for autographing pictures after the show!!  I know, I know, I asked for it, but I'm learning more about what to do every year, and Paul and Jo Anderson just spoiled me, I guess, with their pretty stage and the space heater! 

That's the heater, as you look to the left!


Jason and family, thank you so much for a wonderful evening to wrap up the tour. It's great spending time with you guys, and thank you, Moyer family, for making the trip as well.  Jason I hope your charity, the Jeff Gordon Foundation, did well that night!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thoughts...on my Decorating Friends.

I sit here in my kitchen, snow falling outside, and missing my husband and eldest daughter as they are on the trek to Omaha to retrieve the van. The rental had to be returned yesterday by 1:30 and it's a 24-hour drive so they left bright and early Christmas morning. Hence a new "adult" Christmas tradition was born....opening presents on Christmas Eve.  It was very warm and cozy with a fire going, and I think I might vote for continuing doing things that way in the future.

I was just fooling around on Facebook and realizing that so many of the contacts that I have there are people I've met through the Christmas decorating community. Yes, it is known as a "community."   I know this might seem strange to people who are not part of it, but those folks who go crazy decorating their houses each year actually network on websites, forums and on Facebook. Many of them meet each other at expos, educational workshop days and weekends, and other fun events.  Decorating enthusiasts are part of a rapidly growing community devoted to the hobby of not only lighting your house for Christmas, but animating the lights through computer programs that are increasingly sophisticated. LUCKY LUCKY ME! I had already written the right song for this group of folks, and someone found it, and all of this had nothing to do with me promoting it or anything. It was out there on iTunes and other sites and had been available since 1998.  I'm just fortunate that the first decorator found it, and then it caught on.  I've had such a wonderful time getting to know so many great people that I made sure to write some new songs for them on the latest album. It's just a wonderful thing to see what they do with my music.  I'm really blessed by watching their videos and by the displays I've gotten to see in person.

I first found this community through one of the  very first "House on Christmas Street" videos that popped up on YouTube back in 2006...which led me to www.planetchristmas.com.  I signed up and introduced myself on one of the forums, and was greeted enthusiastically by the folks there. Since then my life has been enriched SO MUCH by being accepted into this group of amazing people. They are all over the world, and I am lucky to call many of them not just contacts, but FRIENDS.  

I've met them at conventions and at their houses. I've met hosts on my tour, and I've met other decorators who have come out to see me in concert on the tour.  Many I've only met online, but I feel like I know them just the same. They add fun and joy to my life, and a sense of support and encouragement.  And I am VERY grateful.  

I don't have an animated display, for the record, but I have done a good sized display for many years at my house, since before I wrote the song. I've ALWAYS loved outdoor Christmas decorations, since I was a little kid.  The thing that always "got" me was Santa on the roof.  However, at my house I have never been brave enough to get him up there. I did fall out a window once trying to jury-rig him so it looked like he and the reindeer were flying down from the roof. Luckily I fell into bushes.   Yup, it's me that does it...it's not Philip's "thing," although he has been helping these past few years.  I'll never get into synchronizing the lights...I just don't have the time or the smarts or the patience.  But I do love my blow molds!

Anyhow, like any other community, people have differences, but I am fortunate that the folks that I have met have just been the nicest people on Earth. Just imagine what a person must be like who spends most of their time thinking about how to get Santa to fly over their house, or how to make the display the most fun for children, or where to set up the snowmen (cause there's never just one!).  Or people, like Paul Aziz in Oregon, who actually invent animatronic figures, like his talking and singing snowman.  These are folks with imagination, skills and a sense of whimsy, who understand the wonder of childhood. Each decorator is somewhat of a Disney in their own right.

The majority of these folks not only design a display, but they create a whole  30-minute radio program to go with their display, so people can park at their house, turn their radio on a certain frequency and hear a show while they watch lights.  On my tour I've seen tons of people parked in cars with their families, enjoying a take-out supper and watching the show. How many people all over the world have been entertained for free like this?

Kevin Dunn, a.k.a "The Demented Elf", is responsible for developing the radio program feature and his voice can be heard all over the world at displays.  He is also a super-nice person who has had a radio career and makes the programs sound very professional. He has his own year-round radio station, too: www.holidayamericaradio.com  They plan to play music for every holiday all year round.

Then there are the people who  actually build a walk-through display at their homes, like Larry and Rachel Charpiat in North Carolina, Darrel Moyer in Pennsylvania, and Tommy Sosebee in South Carolina.  They spend hours and hours getting it right, and then they devote their ENTIRE CHRISTMAS SEASON to helping strangers park, giving them hot chocolate for FREE and handing out candy canes.  They practically have amusement parks in their yards, and for many of the people around a visit to their display is a yearly tradition, and yet they don't charge a cent for admission.  And many of them have donation boxes at their displays for a local charity, to boot.

Well, I could go on and on.  Again, I'm just reflecting upon my good fortune of having so many wonderful people in my life because of that one song.  If you are one of them and you are reading this, I want you to know that I do not take you for granted. I am blessed to know each and every one of you. Thank you for accepting me into your community of joy.  You have put so many smiles on my face, made me laugh and sing and made me feel special.  I really and  truly love you all and I wish you the happiest of new years. Thank you for all that you do to make the world a brighter place!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

How to Host on the 2013 Tour

I'm just using today to catch up on some stuff before tonight's concert at Reph's Winter Wonderland in Nazareth, PA, and I came across this website where Bobby Dicken's house was chosen as "Home of the Week" last week.  I thought it was an interesting interview with Bobby, and it tells how he came to be one of the hosts on the tour.
I'm really not sure at all at this point how the tour will shake down for 2013. I have to recover from this one first! But barring an Act of God I will be out there once again.  I hope I can find a MAJOR SPONSOR this time ...that would solve a lot of headaches!
But anyway, here's the page with Bobby's interview. You have to scroll down a bit to find it.

http://k3lights.com/news/home-of-the-week

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Krasley's Christmas, Manheim PA December 22

I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Manheim, PA after the penultimate concert of the tour (that means "next to last, Darrel and Jason! haha!)  I'm filled with mixed emotions. 
First of all, let me thank Don and Tammy Krasley and their family for another great night on the tour. Don actually spent the day building a stage for me to perform on, and, in spite of the cold, we had a great turnout.  He even had folks from a radio station (I-105) there with their van and they gave out tee-shirts to everyone who donated to the Ronald McDonald House. The folks from RMH were there, too.  Lots of people listened from their cars but there were lots out on the lawn dancing and singing along as well.  Don's display has the tallest mega-tree I've seen on the tour, and his display, which is all lights and no figures, is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the only photo I got of it is blurry, but I think it looks kinda cool that way:

It was another cold night, as I expected it would be, and once again my fingers were frozen by the time I signed autographs, but at least there was no precipitation.  I want to make special notice of young Carson, who got up to sing "Frosty" and blanked on the words, but kept going nonetheless with the help of the audience.  He was darling!
But you know what? My favorite time of this evening was the little while I spent with the family inside the house after the show.  The Krasley's have been together 33 years, and in their wedding photo they look like kids.  For that matter, they still look like kids!   Don's mother was there, a beautiful and vibrant lady who stayed out in the cold for the entire concert.  Their daughter was also there, and she gave me a beautiful handmade ornament. She's the mother of the aforementioned adorable redhead, Carson, and his equally adorable little sister, Lauren. There was just a special feeling to this household; and the feeling was love in the air.  I heard during Don's program (for the uninitiated, most decorators have about a 30 minute radio program they broadcast on a low frequency station with music and synchronized lights, and in between they may have some voiceovers) he'd had Kevin Dunn, "The Demented Elf," do a voiceover in honor of Tammy, saying how he couldn't do it without her. It was really beautiful.  Now I have to ask you a favor.... if you are reading this I want you to please hold this family up in your prayers. They are facing a health crisis, and without going into detail I just want to say that they need God's help.  They are a beautiful, loving family and I came to truly care for them in just the short time that I have communicated with Don and through meeting them in person tonight.  I was just so touched by the love they so clearly have for each other and the beautiful family they have created.  I ask you sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, because I believe in the power of prayer and the miracles that can result from it, to please hold them up to God when you talk with Him. Thank you.

So, as I sit here reflecting upon the last month I am grateful for all of the adventures I've had, for the wonderful and amazing people I have met, and for all of the really great encouragement from my friends and family.  I have had more tired moments than I've let on, and more frustrating and anxious moments than I've let on, and in the midst of all of this I've been trying to keep up with what's going on with my own mother up in Maine, who is suffering from congestive heart failure and has been in and out of the hospital and rehab centers since the spring.    But I've tried my hardest to keep up a positive attitude and make every concert a memorable one for each family who has been kind enough to host me. 
As I've said before, I don't have a lot of money or a big publicity machine or a record label behind me.  Every fan I've got means the world to me, and this concert tour has given me the chance to get out there in person and try to win people over to my music.  It's not an easy thing at my age, but what would I do if I didn't do this? I still have that dream that "The House on Christmas Street" will be making people smile and sing along long after I am gone.  Even if it never gets on the radio much, I think what I have learned from this Christmas tour is that it's getting almost as good exposure by getting played at a jillion homes around the world several times every night!  And who else can say that?  It really is the most famous Christmas song you don't hear on the radio!  ( however, if you are reading this and you have ANY ties with corporate radio...cause they're pretty much all owned by four or five big companies, I would appreciate any help you could offer there cause I still can't figure out how to get them to play it)

Tomorrow night after the concert in Nazareth, PA I'm  going to drive straight home to the arms of my husband and daughters in NH, and you may not hear from me for a few days as I focus on them for Christmas.  But please know that, if you've been reading this blog, if you've been keeping up with me on Facebook, if you've been to any of the concerts....I am eternally indebted to you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making another tour happen for me, and helping me get closer to making my dream come true.

HAVE A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS AND GOD BLESS YOU!!!!!!

A Dicken Christmas, Hudson, IL December 19th

As I've said before, I have been corresponding with the hosts for months and some have been in touch more than others. Bobby Dicken, who owns his own Mobile DJ service, works in financial services AND is a firefighter, has been an active correspondent.  This 25-year old young man is a powerful go-getther, and it seemed like almost every day he was telling me about more publicity that he got for his concert.  His Mom, Carla, also friended me on Facebook and kept me up-to-date with what was happening too, so I was really looking forward to meeting this family!
  On the way to Illinois from Michigan I did have to make a quick trip to a Walmart, and found one which I think has to be one of the smallest in the country. It was the smallest one I've ever seen, anyway. And right in the back of the parking lot was THIS find!:


WOW!!  Something  great for my "Weird Things are Everywhere!" collection!

I reached the Dicken household early, around 4:45, because they'd indicated to me that they wanted to have dinner before the show, but when I got there I discovered that plans had changed and dinner would be after the show. However, Carla Dicken had laid out a spread which actually was like dinner before dinner. I was hungry so I had a bite.
Bobby was busy out in the yard. He'd set up a stage in his driveway and chairs in the driveway and bleachers at the end of the driveway. He had a ton of signage and he had even arranged for bus transportation for attendees from the school parking lot to the display.  He has a great sound system that he uses for his deejay work and I was able to plug into that, so that meant less work setting up for me. He even had arranged for a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus!! This guy thought of EVERYTHING and it was all very professional. We had at least 200 people there!
I didn't get any good pictures of his display but Bobby had hired a professional photographer who just posted her work and you can see it here:

http://3birdsphotographyclients.com/christmas
Bobby's charity of choice for the concert was the McLean County Toys for Tots program.  They had already reached their goal of toys for the season but were very grateful for the opportunity to be able to give more toys out to children in need.  I know that at least two of their boxes were filled to overflowing from the concert and possibly there were more that I couldn't see.  They expressed their appreciation to everyone there and once again, I was happy to be a part of an event that could bring happiness to others at Christmas time.
The concert began and during the first song, "Mrs. Santa Claus," the lady herself came out and gave candy canes to the kids, just as she had done in Gloucester at the XTRA 99.1 show.  Later, Santa came out to dance with the children during  "Santa Whatcha Got." But just as Bobby, who just happened to be my volunteer,  got going doing "Candy" the heavens opened up and it began to rain!  We had to get the keyboard into the garage so we couldn't finish that song. But Santa brought me an umbrella and someone covered the board with a tarp and I was able to do "Where is Santa Claus" and "The House on Christmas Street" and then we did the autographing at a table in the garage, so the day was saved!
One really cool thing that happened after the concert was that the sign that said "Merry Christmas from Judy Pancoast" in lights had a malfunction. When they finally got it fixed it said, "Marry Me Christine!" and there was a proposal right there on the lawn in front of God and everybody.  Luckily Christine said "yes!"  Here's a photo of the happy couple:

That's a first at a Judy Pancoast concert! 
Here's something else that's a first. The day before was Bobby's birthday, and here is his cake:


Pretty cool, huh? Bobby didn't want to cut it!   Bobby and I were served the first slices. I, of course, just had a couple of bites and it was delicious. 

After everything was packed up the family took me out to a local pizza place for a taste of the local fare.  Yummy! The barbecued chicken pizza was a treat and the company was great.

We did not say goodbye that night, as I had the show at Hudson Elementary School the next day, which I've already written about in this blog. But I just want to say a great big thank you again to the Dicken family for a great time, and thank you for all the hard work you put in on my behalf! Merry Christmas!!