Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Dec. 11th Continued....

Enjoying a lovely day in Mayberry (Mt. Airy) before heading up to NC.  I'm sitting in the same booth in McDs that I sat in last year when I was here.  In a while I'm heading up to Pilot Mountain to the home of Larry and Rachel Charpiat, who have the most extensive display I've's a walk-through that might as well be an amusement park!  They are wonderful people who hosted me last year and I just adore them.  In fact, I'm staying with them tonight since I now know that they are not ax murderers.  HA HA!  (at least I don't think never know what might be buried on those five acres!)
Anyhow, they have entered their display in a contest and it would be really cool if you would vote for them.  Here's the link:

So...I intend to get caught up on the blog right now with my update on the concert in Ennice last night. I started my day in Gloucester and drove down to Ennice, NC took about six hours....including the stop for a little van-nap in the parking lot of a shopping center.  
Sydney (my Garmin) tried to take me up the Blue Ridge Parkway again but it was CLOSED so I kept on going and he had to recalculate.  He did NOT like that!
When I got to Ennice I drove right past the fire department because I was looking at the school across the street where I am scheduled to do an assembly on Monday.  So I went about two miles down the road before I realized I must have passed it.  But it was BEAUTIFUL scenery up in the high country....nothing but rolling fields and trees and hilltops as far as the eye could see, and every once in a while a little white farmhouse.  The only reason I missed the display was because it wasn't dark yet, because if I'd gotten there when the lights were on I would never have missed it!

William has added a lot more to his display this year, including "Santa's Castle" which he trucked up from the home of Robin Stublen in Punta Gorda, FL.  and a life sized sleigh.

It was pretty chilly out and they were serving a hot supper which I enjoyed (chicken stew and cornbread).  The biggest radio station around was  doing a radio remote inside, and the deejay (who is also the Program Director) interviewed me on the air and asked for a copy of the song so he could see if he wanted to add it to the station. That's pretty cool because they reach three or four states...100,000 watts!
Anyway,  there were a lot of cars parked in the fire station lot, in the school lot across the street and along the street, but there were only maybe 25 people outside in front of the stage.  It didn't match the number of cars so I  just figured everyone else was inside eating and enjoying the warmth.  I was a little disappointed but I didn't want to tell William that.  I went in to the station after and signed pictures and there were a lot more people in line for autographs than there had been standing in the audience.  It was about this time that William told me that all of the cars I saw parked out there actually had PEOPLE in them during the concert (it was dark and I couldn't see inside them)...and that he had hooked up a transmitter to my sound system so that they could hear the concert in their cars! So I actually had a WAY bigger audience than I thought I did!
After the show and packing up, I went up and parked across the street at the school and watched William's animated light show for about 40 minutes. Amazing! He is a talented programmer and his lights really dance with the music PERFECTLY.  "Christmas Vacation" was my favorite until I saw what he had done with "The House on Christmas Street."  Not because of the song, but because of how his sequence fit the song perfectly.   I especially loved how his Santa on the roof lit up during that lyric, and how he had each element of the display light up one by one during the lyric "The family puts up its display" was like seeing my song brought to life. I was smiling really big the whole time!
So that brings us up to date.  If I think of anything I've missed along the way I'll fill you in.  Like this, for example, from the open air market in Wells, UK:
That's just the mega trees!

The Most Funnest Christmas Concert E-V-E-R!

I was awakened in my hotel room Friday morning by a phone call from Neal Steele...the morning deejay on XTRA 99.1.  That's the station that sponsored the concert.
A little background.....back in 2008 I got an email from a woman named Mona Smith, who said she loved "The House on Christmas Street" and had taken the CD to her favorite deejay, Neal Steele.  She said he liked the song and was going to play it on the station.  One thing led to another and I ended up doing a phone interview with Neal. It was very nice and proper and all went well, and that was that.
The station played the song again during the 2009 Christmas season, and in 2010 I offered to come down to VA to do a concert for their Christmas in July event.  That was a really fun time, and when I first got to know Neal a little bit and also his co-host Karl and some of the other folks he regularly has on the air, including a fun and talented guy named Nate Sparks.  Since that concert I have had many on-air phone interviews with Neal and they have become progressively more insane.  It brings back my time in radio, especially the jobs where I was with a co-host.  We have a lot of fun on the air and I really enjoy it! 
The station does an annual Driveway Party at the home of an extreme decorator named Danny Joyce, and last year on my tour I did a concert at that event.  It was during Grammy season and everybody was really excited and I had a wonderful time.
So this year, when William Bottomley insisted that I return to NC, I told Neal I was coming down this way and we planned another concert.  Only this time the station secured a large church, several other acts and billed it as "The Most Funnest Christmas Concert E-V-E-R!"

And it was!  I got to meet Neal's new co-host, a lovely young lady named Reese, and both of them were dressed like elves and it was quite hilarious!
The show was opened by a young man named Kyle, who came from the Children's Hospital in Richmond.  Nate Sparks is the Director of Education at the hospital, and he arranged for Kyle to come and sing the National Anthem for us.  He did a beautiful job, and later he also sang "Frosty the Snowman" with me.  It was a true honor to meet this lively boy and his brave parents. 

The first act was Timothy Seaman, a wonderful hammered dulcimer player who was very impressive and played interesting and beautiful arrangements of his original songs and well-known Christmas music.  I love the sound of the hammered dulcimer.  Timothy has several CDs available which you can find on his website.  He was followed by Juniper Green, two young and talented singer-songwriters who have developed quite a following here in VA. Plus they are really nice kids! Check them out!
The third act was Ralph Motley and his bluegrass band.  They were just terrific and reminded me of the cowboy songs my father used to sing with me back when I was very young.  In fact, I went searching for "Mother, the Queen of My Heart" on the internet and actually found it!!  YAY!

Then, there was an intermission before Nate Sparks, his band and his lovely daughter Damara took the stage.  I have to say that my favorite song in their set was "I'm Gettin' Nothin' for Christmas".  I love that song and Demi did a great job!

Then it was my turn.  I had a blast...the audience was great....there were three couples who came onstage with me and danced to "Santa Whatcha Got"...and it was great fun to perform in such a beautiful venue.

But my portion of the concert was not really the big thing that happened to me that night. Before my portion of the show I was sitting in the audience listening to the other performers , and my heart was filled with anxiety.  It seems that lately I am so obsessed and consumed with making "The House on Christmas Street" a hit that I have begun to lose my ability to have fun.  Several things have happened in the past couple of weeks that were not fun.....the haters on the internet having a party smashing my CDs....the towing of my van.....the fact that the video views have slowed down....that's all started to overshadow all the good things in my mind.  I was sitting there in a church, and so I tried to shut everything else out and just connect with God.  I asked Him to take this worry out of my heart, and to help me get back to the true meaning of the season.  Now, I am not the type of person to say "God spoke to me" or "The Lord told me" because that's not literally what happens.  When I "hear" the voice of God it is usually just a thought that comes into my head, to be honest.  Some people might say that's just me brainwashing myself, but I can tell the difference between a thought that comes from me and an idea or thought that comes from somewhere else, because when I try to calm myself down without reaching out to God I am usually not very successful.  I know when He is "speaking" to me.
Anyway, almost immediately a feeling of calm and peacefulness came over me, and I was reminded of another time, not too long ago, when I visited my church at home in the middle of the day to connect with God when no one else was there. Something happened to me that day that I can't write out loud or you would think I was insane, but it was something that really changed my whole vision of the future.  So I was reminded of that day, and I knew that everything would be okay.  It's all gonna be okay.  God is gonna take my life where He wants it to go, and I just have to trust that, whether it's my vision or not.
I feel much better now, having been reminded of that.
So thank you to everyone who participated in the concert, and especially to Neal Steele and everyone at XTRA 99.1 for putting it all together...thanks to Linda Grow for the beautiful bag of goodies, and Katherine who supplies me with Goo Goos, and Pastor Mike who inspired me, and Danny, and (Oh Lord his name escapes me) the hunter guy....and the chocolate cake lady, and "hot" Linda (that's not my name for her...that's Neal's name) who bid $100 for my Big Red Coat, which went to the local Humane Society.  And here's a picture of her modeling it!

Sunday Morning, December 11

I actually got eight hours of sleep last night!  I don't have to travel far today, so I can take things kind of easy.  I fell asleep watching "No Country for Old Men" on TV; I love that's a great adaptation of the terrific book by Cormac McCarthy.  Anyway, I dreamed I was having dinner with Josh Brolin at Barbra Streisand's house, and we were talking about his Dad and how on "Marcus Welby, MD" he was so cool because he was a doctor who rode a motorcycle.  HA!

Before I go on, I thought I'd post some pictures .....these are from my time in the UK...
Paul Toole's house....

my favorite part of Paul's display....the stream and pond!

This is Gemma.......
Chris, me., Laura and Paul at Karaoke Night

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday December 9, Gloucester, VA

What a GREAT night here in Gloucester, VA!  We had over a thousand people in the Lighthouse Worship Center and I got to share the stage with some great artists.  Lots of kids and people of all ages having a great time.  It was wonderful!
I just realized that's the second time this Christmas season that I've sung for an audience of a thousand or so.  Cool beans!
(continued on Saturday morning....)

  But, once again, I am getting ahead of myself.

I was home for two days after the England trip.  I was so happy I got to be there when Louisa found out she'd been accepted at Tulane, one of her top choices for college.  But on Wednesday I had to leave again....
I drove from home to NYC to visit with Emma that was great to see her, but ...long story van got towed while we were having lunch and I had to walk about three miles in the soaking rain to get it, and then they charged me a whopping $485 to get it back!!!!!  That was a horrible way to start the tour.
I arrived about an hour late to the first concert, in Cranbury, NJ at the home of the Shaw Family.  They had set up a tent for the audience and a canopy for me.  Keith Shaw could not have been nicer or more understanding.  They helped me get the gear up and I did a show for the hardy souls who were there, and a good time was had by all.  Afterwards I was interviewed by the local in front of a blazing fire in the house, and I'm sure I looked like a drowned rat!  But the kindness and generosity of the Shaws and their friends cannot be understated. They were wonderful wonderful wonderful through it all and made me feel like family.  I have promised them that I would return on the way back and do a proper show, starting ON TIME, next Wednesday evening.  I will have to leave SC around 3am to get there on time, but I will be there and nothing is going to stop me!!
We had breakfast the next morning and they took me on a tour of their beautiful little historic town, and then I was off again, down to Virginia, which ended up taking me much longer than it should have because I made several stops along the way....and had a lovely dinner at a Shoney's where the waitress was just a sweetheart and the fried chicken was to die for.
I saw the sun set as I was crossing the Potomac and posted a picture of that on my FB page.
 The next morning (yesterday) I was up bright and early and on the air with Neal Steele, who is the morning deejay at XTRA 99.1, which sponsored the concert.  I called him and he put me on the air before I actually went over to the station....and then when I walked out of the hotel there was a NOTE on my van from some stranger who had written directions to the station from the hotel and told me he (or she) loved listening to me when I was on with Neal!  It was one of those little things that really makes life interesting. I still don't know who left it, but if you are reading this ...thank you!
But I'm getting ahead of myself.....
When I arrived in my room....on the desk there was a HUGE festive tote bag just filled to the brim with goodies that had been put together by two of Neal's listeners.  I mean, if I was planning on losing weight during this season that plan is in the potty now!  One of the ladies has a secret source of Goo Goo Clusters, which is this really yummy candy that is manufactured in Nashville.  I ate them often when we lived in TN, but you can't get them in NH and I have spoken about them with Neal on the air.  She put two boxes of them in the bag and then brought me  another one at the concert!  The other lady actually MADE THE BAG and filled it with snickers bars (fun size!), cocoa mix, cheese and crackers, and all kinds of other fun stuff, plus a Christmas mug!
The generosity of people towards me is almost embarrassing sometimes.  What did I do to deserve this?  As I said in an earlier post, everywhere I go on these tours people go out of their way to make me feel special. It is constantly amazing and I hope everyone knows that I sincerely appreciate it all.  These memories will uplift me during the cold days in January when I'm snowed in my home in NH and working on getting the next gig.
Well, I'm looking at the time and realize I have to hit the road if I'm going to get to Ennice on time.  I'll have to stop here and continue on with the story of the rest of yesterday tonight.  Does that make sense?  That sentence looks weird.
Anyhow, thanks again for reading this, and for being with me on this endless quest....hope you are having  a merry Christmas season!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

As I sit here in my lovely room at the Hampton Inn in Gloucester, VA, about to bite into a delicious Goo Goo Cluster SUPREME which was left here for me by a wonderful person (along with a ton of other delicious goodies!) the main thought on my mind is gratitude that so many people have been so kind to me along the way.  Not just this year, but last year and all the year through.  I was just re-reading the last post I wrote and I hope it doesn't come across like I'm bragging. I'm just continually amazed that people are being so nice to me, someone they hardly know, and so I write about it a lot because I want them to know how much I appreciate it.  Since this craziness all started I have met so many really good-hearted people who just like to make people happy, and it can't help but renew my faith in God every single time.  I mean, last night I showed up an hour LATE while people were waiting for me in the rain, and still they stayed and listened to the concert and told me how much they enjoyed it, and my hosts were just the nicest people you can imagine.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.  This is the 2011 tour blog, and I haven't even told you about England yet.
First of all, there was some pre-trip drama that I didn't want to tell anybody about, so only a handful of people knew that the British Consulate DENIED my visa when I applied in October.
Imagine my horror when I got the email that said the visa had been denied, but gave me no reason why!  Then I had to wait for them to return the application to find out why, and in the end it was because I was a dummy and just sent in the application without supplying any additional documentation about myself or the purpose of the trip.  I just assumed that because they gave me a visa last year, and because everything was covered in the application,  that this year would be a breeze...WRONG!
Then I couldn't find any information anywhere about how to appeal the decision, and I was FREAKING OUT because there was NO WAY I could miss the opportunity to be on television all over the United Kingdom!  I called Senator Shaheen's office and the people there were extremely helpful, and told me I should re-apply with the proper documentation.  So I did, and believe me, I sent them about a half-inch thick pile of paper with my second application. Everything from a copy of our mortgage statement and our 2010 income tax return to a letter from Make-a-Wish UK saying how much money we raised last year.  I not only had to pony up for another application fee, but by that time I had to pay an extra $150 to expedite the application process.  Imagine my relief when I got the email that said it had been approved.  This was 11th hour stuff, folks!
Anyway, when I finally arrived a Heathrow around 7am UK time on Monday, Paul and Chris were nowhere to be seen.  After awhile the assistant producer of the documentary showed up toting a camera and explained that they were running late.  When they arrived I was so happy to see them again,we had a lovely reunion and she filmed the whole thing.  Then she filmed us walking out the door of the airport, and it was supposed to be natural (reality TV!) but it was really awkward.  There is no way you can be natural when someone has a camera aimed at you!
Driving away from the airport she put the camera on the dashboard and did a lot of filming of us just talking.  Then she parted ways with us and we went on to Stonehenge, which was amazing...but I have to admit, it was a lot smaller than I'd thought it would be.  You hear so much about it that I expected the stones to be these huge monoliths, but in reality I'd say they aren't really any taller than 15 or 18 feet.  Pretty big, but not what I'd envisioned. Still, it was eerie to be there and to learn about how long it's been there, and how many zillions of people have lived and died who have walked by or around that thing.  And it was really cool to actually be there after all of these years of hearing about it.

 We got to Wells in late afternoon and I checked into the hotel.  It was about this time that I was alerted online here to some major nasty stuff that was being said about me by some people who just have a problem with me in general and who were complaining about a statement that I made online regarding copyrights and licensing.  I don't want to go into details, but it was ugly, and hurtful, and I know this sort of thing goes with being in the public eye but I was suffering from jet-lag anyway and this just threw me into a tailspin.  I was so upset, I was crying and all, and Paul came back over to the hotel and sat and talked with me for awhile until I got sleepy, and then I slept until 4pm the next day.  I felt a whole lot better when I woke up.  The only reason I'm mentioning it at all is because I want to give whoever reads this the total picture...that being me isn't all wonderfulness 24 hours a day.  For some strange reason there are people who actually don't like me!  Can you imagine that?  Hahahahah!  But seriously, I'll address this supposed need I have for "Fame and Fortune" in another post.  Let's just say for now that I need to develop a thicker skin, and not just a lot of fat with thin skin over it!

For the sake of time, and cause I don't wanna bore you, I'll fast forward to the day of the switch-on, which was Wednesday.  I was nervous all day.  I NEVER get nervous before concerts, but this was a huge event for Paul and Chris, and a HUGE event for the whole community, and I just really didn't want to screw it up for them. Paul and Chris were so busy that they never got over to pick me up until around 3pm, but it was cool because there was a market going on in the town and I had a chance to browse around and pick up some Christmas gifts and stuff.  It was fun!

When I got to Paul's house it was just madness. Everyone was getting ready and people were starting to arrive, so I just got out of the way and took a walk around the neighborhood, singing to myself. I was planning to sing some of the new stuff, so I was going over the lyrics and I'm walking down the street about a block from Paul's house, it's pretty dark out, but suddenly I see this light and it's two people running across the street toward me with the television camera, and they get on the sidewalk just in front of me and walk backwards in front of me and it was all sort of alarming.  I kept singing but now I was really self-conscious so I probable blew it all by looking up and saying "I'm just practicing!" and then I put my head down and kept walking.

The actual event was pretty amazing.  First of all, I want to say that Paul's display may not be as big as some of the ones I've seen in America, but it is really really beautiful!  The feature I like the best is that he's used a child's slide to create a sort of "waterfall" with lights that goes down into a little pond and he's got penguins and polar bears frolicking around and it's lots of fun.  He covers the whole lawn with this white stuff that looks like snow.  It's really tasteful and just lovely.  Plus he's decorated the lawns of several of the other houses in the "close" as well (with their permission, of course).

A little while before we started Mr. John Challis, who plays one of the most famous characters of all time on British television (, "Boycie", arrived to much hoopla.  What a nice guy, too!  I'm told it was the UK equivalent of having someone like William Shatner or Henry Winkler come to your house to switch on your lights! 

Eventually it was time to get started and Paul introduced me, I sang for about half an hour, and then it was time to switch on the lights.  Mr. Challis took the stage and did a little monologue for a while which everyone there just ate right up, and then they did the countdown and switched on the lights and I sang The House on Christmas Street.  It was wonderful.  There were literally ONE THOUSAND people in this little cul-de-sac just cheering and having a wonderful time.  It was really something amazing to be a part of that.

There were booths where people could get mince pies (I tried one...yum!), mulled wine and Starbucks coffee, and John Challis arrived in a vintage Rolls Royce.  The whole thing was orchestrated by Paul Toole and his partner Chris Elliott and I bow down to their genius.  Someone in the street told me that the guys had created a NATIONAL EVENT right there in the smallest city in all of England. 

In the following days Paul and his display were featured on all the morning news television programs (one guy did the weather from Paul's house!) and were in every major newspaper in the country.  Paul's now a real celebrity who will be recognized wherever he goes, and he deserved it, because he took this dark little corner of the world and lit is up for everyone to see.  I'm proud to be his friend.

The latest word on the documentary is that it's called "The King of Christmas Lights," it features three separate households, the editing is done but they won't tell us what they have included, and it will be shown all over the UK on December 19th.  It's mind boggling when you think about it.  I have no idea whether I will actually be included in it or not, but whatever happens, it was a totally amazing experience and one I will never, ever forget. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Paul and Christopher for making it happen and I wish the best of all things for them.  I'll keep you posted on what happens with the doc and if there's a chance we can see it here in the states as I get the news.

As always, thanks for reading my drivel and

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflections on the first-ever 2010 House on Christmas Street tour, one year later.

It was just about a year ago that I set off on a remarkable journey to promote “The House on Christmas Street.”  I’d gotten the bright idea in May that it would be really cool to travel around the country and perform at the homes of Christmas decorators who use the song in their displays. I hoped it would be a fun treat for them and it would be beneficial to publicizing the song as well.   I did not want to charge them my regular performance fee, but I did ask that they provide me with lodging at some sort of motel, hotel or the like for the night that I would be there.  I also asked that they work to get as much publicity as possible, and that they collect for a charity.  I posted on a couple of the Christmas Decorator networking sites and soon had several emails from folks who invited me to come to their houses.  I began to plan the route.
When I first began planning, my husband was very concerned.  He couldn’t imagine how I could cover the cost of such  trip, even if the lodging were free.  We are not well-to-do people, partly because I have spent so much of our married life working as a musician, which is an up and down life.
But almost as soon as I began planning, amazing things happened.  First, I got a message from Paul Toole in the UK, asking if I would come to England on the tour. I laughed and said I didn’t think I could drive across the ocean, and maybe another year I could afford it, but he replied and said he would cover the cost of the entire trip.  I was floored.  My trip to England was so much fun and it bowled me over that it was all because of a song.  Paul and his friend Chris and I became fast friends, and now, here I am a year later, back in England courtesy of Paul.  This is the first WONDERFUL thing that happened because of the decision to do the tour.
The second thing that happened is that some of the decorators I’d corresponded with came forward and said that, although they could not host on the tour, they would like to donate money to cover the gas expenses.  Again I was bowled over. One guy, named Roger, asked me to set up a PayPal button on my website so people could make donations, and I set up a reward system for different contributions.  In the end I raised almost exactly the amount I needed to cover the gas.  Another miracle.
The first stop on the tour was England, and I flew out of New York.  My daughter lives there, so she dropped me off at the airport and kept my van for the time that I was gone.  The very last day I was there (here) I found out that I’d gotten nominated for a Grammy Award for my latest children’s CD.  Another miracle. 
My flight back to the States was delayed because of snow, and this would really put a jam on my tour plan, but when I got back to the USA my daughter volunteered to drive me to Tennessee, so I could sleep in the car and still perform the next day.  She was wonderful.  We had a great time and it was really good for me to spend that time with her, as I miss her so much now that she is grown and on her own.  She came to the performance and had lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Smith and me, and a good time was had by all.  I got her on a plane back home and the rest was up to me.
I know I don’t need to go into detail here about every aspect of the tour, because, if you read the blog I kept while touring you know most of what went on.  But some people have asked me about my reflections, and so I’m going to do my best now to tell you what is in my mind and heart about the whole experience.
First of all, it ended up to be more fun, more uplifting, more amazing and more exciting than I ever could have imagined.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  And, in fact, I am planning on doing again in 2012.  And this year I am doing one concert here in England, and a little mini tour down south by "popular demand."
I have to backtrack a little to give you some history in order for you to really understand how much this whole experience meant to me.
I have been a working musician all my life, but didn’t go into it full-time until 1997.  I have built up a good reputation as a childrens musician and love what I do, but everything came to a crashing halt in 2004 when I was diagnosed with Temporal Arteritis. 
Don’t know what that is?  Neither did I.  But my doctors were astounded because this is a disease that is usually found in the elderly, and I was 45 when diagnosed.  This disease causes swelling of the arteries in your head and can make you go blind, and after that it can spread to your heart and kill you. It presented with a giant lump on the side of my head, and when the surgeon cut me open to biopsy it, he actually said, 'Oh my God!"  That was reassuring.
The only treatment is long-term high doses of,  Prednisone, which is a steroid.  This is the stuff that Jerry Lewis was on for some time, and why he looked all puffy and strange one year on the telethon.
I don’t want to go into too many gory details, but I was on that stuff for over three years and had just about every side effect that goes with it, especially during the first 14 months or so when the dose was at its highest.  I got high blood pressure, mood swings, “moon face”, gained weight and got cataracts in both eyes. The stuff affected me so badly that I couldn’t do a concert without breaking into a sweat, and if I did do one I could do nothing the rest of the day but lie in bed.  Plus I looked so weird that it was disconcerting to some.  So I stopped doing concerts for much of the first year, until they started to taper off the Prednisone.  I have no disability insurance, and we used up most of our savings during that time.
 I lost bone density, and in January of 2006 I slipped in my driveway and broke my ankle.  I was pretty much housebound for six weeks.  I got the cast off early in March, and one week later I was back in the hospital with a blood clot in that leg.  I had to stab myself with needles in the stomach for two weeks until the oral blood thinners kicked in.
This was the lowest point of my life. It seemed that just as I'd made it to the light at the end of the tunnel, the light went out again.  
I’ve been a Christian all my life, but I have to admit that at that time, in my bed with all of those medications on my nightstand, I began to question my beliefs.  Why was this happening?  My family was suffering from my illness, our finances were getting desperate, and my career was at a standstill.  I kept asking God what the point of all this was.
My Pastor came to visit me at home during this time and prayed with me, and one of my friends gave me a mustard seed in a little case on a chain that I could wear as a necklace.  She said all I needed was faith as big as a mustard seed, and that’s about all I had at that point.  It was really rough.  Everyone close to me said that God was preparing me for something, but I couldn’t see that at all.
I finally got off the medication at Christmas time 2007, and have been able to resume a normal life, but it took a long time to get back on our feet financially and to revive my career.
However, I do believe that going through that gave me the ability to appreciate the good things in life so much more.  I thought of that time a lot while I was on the tour; how, when I was sick, I could never have imagined that one day I would be doing such a crazy and wonderful thing.  People were right…I think God was preparing me for something, because you know what? It made me braver, and more aware that every single day needs to be lived to the fullest.  I believe the experience made me more able and willing to embrace what's out there in life.  So when I got the idea to do the tour, I wasn't afraid at all.  I didn't even think about being afraid....and it surprised me when people asked me how I could go traipsing around the country by myself, because I hadn't even considered that it might not be safe.
In the end, the number one thing that I took away from the tour was an uplift in spirituality.  Everywhere I went people welcomed me with open arms and said they had been praying for me.  And when I left they said they would continue to pray for my safety and success on the tour.  I got a great send-off at my church, and encouraging notes from church family and friends throughout the trip. Just about every time I heard from somebody they said they were praying for me, and I felt it.
Even at the times when I was driving in the dark on slippery roads through mountain passes I could feel the power of the prayer that people were putting out there for me.  I felt uplifted into the Lord’s hands.  I from the tour returned stronger in my faith and more trusting that God knows what He is doing.
Another thing for which I am grateful is the friendly way I was received into each family who hosted the tour.  People went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and well fed.  Here were strangers who knew me not one bit, really, who were so happy to see me that they hugged me the minute we met.  People cooked wonderful meals for me,  took me out to eat, and constantly expressed their happiness that I was there and that I’d had a safe trip.  I remember each and every family fondly and with great gratitude that you would take a stranger into your hearts and homes and treat her with such kindness.  I was brought to tears receiving an official “town brick” in Texas and a key to the city in North Carolina.  I was delighted to share my music with folks in a nursing home at one stop and to sing with a back-up chorus of children at another.  The Charpiats of Pilot Mountain made sure I got a tour of “Mayberry” and even got to visit the jail and see the sheriff conduct a wedding.  Z-Man in Woodinville, WA surprised me with a special duet partner…the one and only BOB RIVERS!  Everywhere I went I met people full of love for each other, for Christmas, for music, for God.  I was constantly infused with happiness and joy and I pretty much flew through the miles.
So many memorable things happened it would be difficult to list them all, but I hope everyone knows how very much I appreciated your hospitality and kindness, your prayers and your laughter and your generosity.  I also owe a great debt of gratitude to all the people who came out to see the shows.  In some places it was so cold we hardly had an audience, but in warmer climes there were people jamming in the streets.  I think it is safe to say that at each concert a good time was had by all.
I am grateful for the friends I made along the way and I hope you know I will never ever forget you.
Several people have asked me if I was scared at all on the trip.  Not really.  Even when I ran out of gas one early morning (I think I wrote about that here?) and was stuck on the side of a major highway I was not scared.  I felt the power of God taking care of me and I was actually pretty calm.  The time the Garmin took me off the highway and across two hundred miles of desolate Indian reservation land in the middle of the night was very eerie, but I was never really concerned for my safety.
I saw the whole thing as a big adventure, and it was fun to share my thoughts and photos of the trip with folks through the blog and Facebook.  The feedback that I got from friends all over was so encouraging.  I felt that you were all with me; and so I was never really alone.
I did miss my family a lot while I was gone and wished they were there to share the adventure.  I missed my daughter dancing in The Nutcracker, but I am thrilled that I will be home this year to see her dance the part of the Snow Queen in this year’s production.  Everybody in my family was very supportive of the trip, so that made things much easier.  I am blessed to have a husband who believes in the dream, who understands me and how much I love to perform, and who has faith in me.
I didn’t miss my house, however.  I’m not a homebody.  Home for me is wherever my family is.  I would much rather be out on the road, like a traveling minstrel, than be at home.  I know some people will think that’s weird and I can’t really explain it, it’s just the way I am.  Taking off in my van gives me a feeling of excitement and boldness and a thrill that is beyond explanation. 
Some interesting observations from the tour:

To a family, every single host had a bigger and nicer house than I do!

It’s not always warm in Florida.

Most decorators have some sort of a pet, mostly dogs.

Women can do great displays too….and even get Santa up on the roof!

It’s good to have Triple A

Christmas decorators have big hearts 

There are lots of supportive spouses out there who put up with a lot of nuttiness during the season.

Christmas decorators are really proud of their displays!

If there’s a display on the outside, chances are the inside is also decorated…many with little villages and train sets…

It’s not a good idea to take the keyboard outside in December in Indianapolis

Christmas decorators support each other…at many of the stops our audience included decorators from other towns who had made the trip to see the display and concert

In closing, I want to once again say a GREAT BIG thanks to Richard Holdman, who called me at the last minute before I left on the tour, and very humbly asked if I might stop in Utah so he could do a video for the song.  I had no idea who he was or his reputation for amazing displays and videos.  I found out that not only is he the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet, he is generous to a fault.  If you’ve seen the video he did, then you can obviously tell it is a high quality production.  It looks like it cost a million bucks, but Richard and his partners did the whole thing for free for me.  It’s been vastly exciting to watch it grow in views last year and now this year, and I owe all of that to Richard Holdman.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best.  I hope someday that I can do something for him to repay his kindness and generosity.

In the end, I’m not sure the tour really accomplished what I’d set out to do.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any more radio airplay for it, but that’s okay.  I gained much more personally than I ever expected I would.  My life was enriched beyond measure by meeting and interacting with so many wonderful people, and that’s why I agreed to a couple of "mini" tours this year and am planning a large tour next year.

When I lived in Nashville in the 80's I belonged to the Nashville Songwriters Organization, whose motto was "It all begins with a song."  Boy!  Is that true!  I was blessed with the idea for that song and continued to be blessed by the wonderful response I've gotten about it.  “The House on Christmas Street” continues to grow in popularity, and for that I am grateful.  But I am more grateful for having been taken into the hearts and lives of so many people who have added their spirit to my life experience.  I hope you all know that you’ve changed my life in so many great ways, and I have a special place in my heart for you.

Maybe I’ll see you next year?
Before I go, I do want to invite you to post your thoughts and memories of the tour if you were one of the hosts or came to any of the concerts.  I know people would be interested in your perspective as well.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Here We Go Again!!

Merry Christmas!  I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with people you love and that your plans for the Christmas season are going smoothly so far. It's exactly one month until Christmas, so I thought it was time to come back to The House on Christmas Street blog and begin documenting once more my quest for a Christmas hit.
Last year's tour memories have stayed with me in my heart and mind throughout the year.  I just had so much fun being on that adventure, that I've decided to do it all over again next year!  So many people have contacted me and asked me to come to their homes for concerts that I've started an "exploratory" list of people who are interested and I'll begin planning in earnest in January.  So, if you think you'd like to host me for a concert at your place during the Christmas season of 2012, shoot me an email on my website and I'll put you on the list.
During the past 11 months or so I've brainstormed and explored ideas for promoting the song, and I started thinking about maybe hiring a record promoter.  In case you don't know, a record promoter usually works for a record label, and is responsible for contacting radio stations to try to get them to play the records released by that company.  In the past several years I've heard of independent record promoters who work with people like me who are not signed to major labels, so back in May I started looking around for someone who worked with music like mine.
I did a lot of inquiring and vetting potential people, because, as you can imagine, it's not cheap to do this.  I finally settled on one outfit that came highly recommended, and who made me a very reasonable offer to promote the song during October, November and December.  So far progress is slow...they send me weekly reports of the stations they are talking to....and in the next post I'll list the stations that are considering adding the song to their playlists.
Right now I want to get back to talking about touring....because, although I had decided I would stay put this year, some things came up that managed to lure me away!  So this Sunday I am getting on a plane and flying back to the home of decorator Paul Toole in the UK to once again sing at his annual light switch on.  After we'd made the plans, Paul was approached by Channel 4  to be a subject of a documentary on Extreme Decorating.  He was so excited he called me and told me they want my performance to be part of the program, which will be shown in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in mid-December!!  Then I got a call from an assistant to the producer to get all the clearances and to inquire about getting some clips from Richard Holdman's wonderful video that they could use to promote my appearance. It's all unbelievable! I'm so excited...but, I'll admit, a little nervous. This could be a huge break for "The House on Christmas Street," so I don't want to blow it by looking stupid or forgetting the words or something!
When I come back from England I'll be home for a couple of days and then I'm hitting the road in my Sienna and heading for Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for some concerts with the the folks who hosted me last year and one new host.  I'll try to write more about those plans within the next couple of days.
Right now I'm kinda tired....droopy-eyed.  We traipsed all over NYC yesterday watching the parade and hanging out with our beautiful daughter Emma.  I gotta get some rest!
Thanks for reading this!  And PLEASE keep watching the Holdman video and sharing it with your friends!!
I'm convinced that if it goes viral that will be THE key to it's success...and I need all the help I can get!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

December 24th, the End

The day in Florida started out sunny and warm...a beautiful day.  I'd made plans to meet my childhood friend Lori and her husband at the Orlando Doubletree Hotel, where I would be performing that night.  It was great to see Lori again.  She'd reached out to me a while back on facebook and though I'd accepted her friend request, I thought she was someone I'd gone to high school with~  But when I began planning the tour and she told me she worked in the hotel industry in Orlando, we spoke on the phone and I put it all together.  This was the little girl I used to play Barbies with on my front porch!  Amazing!  Anyhow, she'd been reading about the tour and had arranged for me to perform on Christmas Eve at the Christmas event at the hotel in return for a couple of nights' stay and a discounted room for the third night.  It was perfect because my sister-in-law was flying my daughters and my husband down on Christmas Day so we could drive back together, and we needed a place to stay.  Our Christmas gift to the girls was to be a one day visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. 
But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I met Lori and her husband Paul at the hotel, got checked in  and then we went off to lunch.  Or, actually, maybe it was the other way around?  Maybe we went to lunch first and then to the hotel?  I honestly am not sure!  By that time I was running on pure adrenalin.  Maybe if Lori reads this she can set me straight!  I do know that we had a fun lunch together at THE GOLDEN CORRAL and did a lot of catching up.
When I went to my room I was totally surprised to find a lovely Christmas flower arrangement that featured a ceramic sculpture of a Norman Rockwell painting, waiting for me on the dresser.  It was a gift from several of the people from Planet Christmas to congratulate me on the Grammy nom and the tour.  It meant the world to me and was so pretty.  I've kept the figurine and will keep it in my indoor Christmas display for all the years to come.
I hung out in my room and tried to catch up on emails and so forth until it was time to go down and do the last show of the tour.  I set up in the lobby and started singing, and I was somewhat discombobulated that for quite a while my only audience was grownups, no kids.  But they were in  a partying mood, and we ended up having a wicked good time.  Mrs. Claus showed up and read the kids a story and they decorated cookies and then I sang some more got one of the guys to come up and do Candy with me, and all the way around it was a fantastic way to end the tour.  I went back up to my room filled with all kinds of emotions....happiness, sadness, nostalgia, gratefulness, but most of all excitement because the next day I would see my FAMILY finally!!!!!!!!!!

Before I wrap up the tour blog I do want to say that all during the last few weeks of the tour I was having a blast keeping up with the success of the Holdman video on YouTube.  It was so much fun to check every day to see how many views it had gotten and what kind of comments were left.  It was my goal to see it hit 100-thousand views by Christmas and by the end of Christmas Day it had gone over, and that was very gratifying.  THANKS AGAIN to Richard and to everyone who watched it, and thanks to everyone who hosted and came out to the shows. What a great experience!

And that's it for my tour blog, except for one last entry which I will write later, in which I will reflect upon the tour as a whole, the adventure and what it did for me emotionally and spiritually, and whether or not I'm up for doing it again. I'll be sure to do that within the next couple of days.

 But now I have to get off the computer and do something I haven't done in a while.  READ A BOOK!!!

December 23rd

As I write this it is February 6, and it's probably about time that I get caught up on the tour blog and write about what happened over a month ago.  A month ago already! Seems like a lifetime since then!
So much has happened since I've been home, but I will never forget the evening I spent at the home of Bob Walker and his sons.
I was expecting it to be warm in Florida, but, alas, it was not exactly tropical!  However, it was a darned site warmer than it had been at many of the other shows, and that was very good.  I loved Bob's display...especially the backdrop that he painted over his garage door.  It made a beautiful backdrop for the concert. Hey Bob...why don't you have any pictures of that backdrop on your website?
While I was setting up I had the pleasure of meeting Bob's two sons and his mother, as well as many other people who were around and getting ready for the show.
There were three guys from Planet Christmas who came to the concert and one lady who was a tour sponsor who brought me a beautiful Christmas Cactus (which made it safely home....a miracle!) plus my dear childhood friend Lori and her husband, who were to be my hosts for the concert the next night at the Orlando Doubletree.  It was a friendly atmosphere and a fun concert, but I have to admit, I actually teared up while I was singing The House on Christmas Street with Bob's sequence. I wasn't expecting it, but by that time it felt like the millionth time I had sung it, and all the memories of everyone and everyplace and all the people and displays and miles and miles came flooding back while I was singing, and I almost couldn't get through it.  I'm sure part of the reason why I was so emotional was that I was beyond exhausted by that time.  I mean it...I've never felt so fatigued in my life as I did by the end of the tour.
After the concert a bunch of us sat around in the driveway and talked about the tour and everything, and then it was time for everyone to leave and I packed all my stuff up.  I went into the house to say "goodbye" to Bob and his boys, Terrance and David.  Well, I ended up staying there and eating cookies and talking for a good couple of hours.  I am so impressed with Bob, who is a single father with two adopted sons, who does volunteer work for "Give Kids the World," an organization that brings ill children to Disney World.  I just enjoyed being there and talking with him and his boys and getting to know them a little bit.  I'm pretty sure Terrance said he was 17 although I could be wrong about that and he could be 16.  He's a young man with a lot on his mind and, like so many teens, is trying to figure things out.  He's got some interesting plans for his future.....but I don't really think I should blog about them because they may have been told to me in confidence.  But in case he is reading this, Terrance I want you to know that I am thinking of you and praying that you figure it all out and have a safe and happy future, and please remember that life has both shadows AND light and you never know what could be right around the corner for you.  Your Dad is really amazing and you are very lucky to have such a supportive father.  I enjoyed getting to know you and David and your Dad and hope I can visit you again, maybe even Christmas time this year.  Thank you Bob for inviting me into your home and sharing so much with me.  You are all in my prayers and I hope you haven't forgotten me!
Going back to my hotel that night was very sad.  I know they don't know this, but I really didn't want to leave Bob's house.  That might sound kind of nuts but I just enjoyed meeting all the people on the tour and doing the house concerts in the neighborhoods and getting so much love and good will from so many people all over the US.  I didn't want it to end.
And you know didn't end....because the next day I met up with Lori Warwicke and her husband for my show at the Doubletree Hotel, and that was a fun end to the tour that I had no idea would end up being so amazing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

December 22

Still catching up on the tour blog.....but at this point the end was in sight....

It was an eight hour drive to Georgia and my next stop at Larry Drum's neighborhood in Cumming, right outside of Atlanta.  I loved driving through Georgia...I'd been there before and so many of the exit signs brought back happy memories.  If you are ever there you should definitely put it on your list to visit the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon.  I brought the family there a few years back and we bought the CD that featured music from Georgia musicians.  We played that CD to death on that trip.  My daughter Emma, for some reason, fell in love with the song "Georgia" by Boz Scaggs.  I'm really not sure why that song is on there...I mean, I think it's about a girl named Georgia and not about the state and Boz Scaggs was not born in Georgia, so that's a mystery.  But I mean we listened to that song over and over and over and the kids and Philip would sing it at the top of their lungs.
So of course I had to dig out that CD and play it as I drove through the state.
When I got to the exit for Plains I took it, hoping to go find my old friend, the Jimmy Carter peanut, which I first found several years ago and made friends with.  You can find out what I'm talking about here:
I added to the mythology of the Peanut in my song "Weird Things are Everywhere!".....
"I have seen a Georgia peanut with a presidential smile....."

BUT I digress......
It was warm and beautiful when I pulled into the driveway of the Drum household and met my #1 Panhead, Larry Drum.  He's the one who coined that term..."Panhead."  I like it!  Larry and his neighbors Brian Todd, Chris Hoard and Jim Sutton collaborate to decorate four houses in their neighborhood and they actually synchronize the lights of four houses at the same time.  More about that later...
I hope Larry doesn't mind my saying this, but of all the hosts on the tour he was the one who was the most concerned about everything being just right.  That's a nice way to say he was nervous as the Dickens!  I reassured him as best I could, because by that time I'd been all over the flipping country and done so many concerts I was ready for anything.  Larry had written me many encouraging emails along the way and so I was very happy to meet him and say "thank you" in person.

Larry had cooked a delicious stir-fry dinner but he was running around so much he didn't even take time to eat it, so I had a quick dinner with Lorraine and she gave me one of her handmade ornaments (made by her!) off one of her trees which shall be treasured in the Pancoast household for years and years to come. 

It was a beautiful night and I think just about the whole neighborhood came out for the concert and once again there was dancing in the street.  Too much fun!  But the highlight of that concert for me was singing "The House on Christmas Street" with their sequence.   I was stationed at a wonderful vantage point at the end of Larry's driveway so that I could see all the houses from where I stood and it was mind-blowing to be right in the middle of it all.  The lights on their mega trees were strung in such a way....I can't really describe it but it was sort of criss crossy and like nothing I had ever seen before.  Maybe if Larry reads this he can write a comment explaining it.  I almost stopped singing I was so enthralled.  Just amazing and I can't imagine the brains that has to go into programming that whole thing.

I signed a lot of pictures after the show and received a lovely gift from one of the families which was delivered by the cutest little boy.  It was a bag of Georgia goodies including peanuts, candy and such.  They even included a bottle of Coke (because, in case you didn't know, you can visit the WORLD OF COCA-COLA in Atlanta!)  Thank you!

There was still a ton of traffic after the concert as people drove through the cul-de-sac to see the show, and Larry and friends were out there directing it, so I had a chance to sit and chat with Lorraine for a bit in the cozy house and enjoy her little mini dachs (three of cute!).  These kinds of times on the tour really helped me connect with people and not feel so alone out there; I mean the times when I could really converse with folks.  It was a lot of "rush here, rush there" along the way but the moments I spent having conversations with the hosts and their families were the times that made it in to something really special.  I think I got to do that a little bit every where I went, and I'm grateful.

The next day it was on to Florida and the final house concert of the tour! 

December 21st

The first day of winter was jam-packed day.  First of all, I started the day driving just a couple of hours to do a concert at Olds Elementary School in Raleigh, NC where my dear ol' friend Barb Packales is the new music teacher.  Barbara moved there from Maine this summer so it was just good fortune that I was going to be "in the neighborhood" and she was able to book an assembly for me at her new school.  It was just WONDERFUL to see her and of course she had already taught her kids some of my songs so the whole assembly was just a blast from start to finish.  Afterwards I was treated to a surprise luncheon to celebrate the Grammy nomination and given a giant red poinsettia to take with me.  Well, it took up the whole front seat and was lovely to have it ride with me on the four hour drive to Conway, SC ( just up the road from Myrtle Beach.)  It was in that vicinity that I found the Elvis Car Dealership (The "king" of cars!) which was just another weird thing along the road!
 I had been corresponding with my SC host, Kenny Greer, for at least a couple of years through Planet Christmas and I'd learned that he was a contradance caller and a newlywed.  I was eager to meet him in person.  The Garmin got me to his parents'  house, where he put up his display this year, safe and sound and I was greeted warmly by Kenny, his lovely wife, his family and friends.  It was cold but not as cold as it had been, and we did get a little bit of snow while I was singing.  I was able to sing HOCS with Kenny's lightshow and of course that was a treat.  It didn't always work out that way along the trip because of technical difficulties or whatever, but every time I was able to do it I felt like I was in the middle of a Disney movie or something.
After the show I was signing pictures and a beautiful young lady named Kenya came up with her mother.  I recall her name because I've been to Kenya a couple of times and we chatted a little bit about that.  Her Mom introduced herself as Jen, a woman I knew from Planet Christmas, and I was very surprised because I didn't know she lived around there or that she was coming to the concert.  So that was already a neat thing and then she handed me a bag which held a box of ribbon candy....much to my surprise and delight.  You see, she had read something (I think it was on FB) where I said that Dec. 21st was Ribbon Candy Day because it was my father's birthday and because it was so close to Christmas all he ever wanted was a box of ribbon candy.  Ever since he passed away in 1998 I have commemorated his birthday by giving away boxes of ribbon candy, and she'd gone searching through several stores to find one to give to me that day.  I'd been thinking about my Daddy off and on all day so getting that gift was just enough to bring on the tears.  She was so thoughtful and caring to do that and it really meant the world to me.
After everyone had left and all was packed up I spent a long time in the Greer's kitchen, telling stories and hearing about Kenny and Jamie's love story.  I stayed quite a bit later than I had planned because it was so much fun. 

If you've been reading this blog regularly, then you are probably getting sick of hearing me say I had a hard time leaving everywhere I went...but it's true!  Everywhere I went I was welcomed into homes and families with open arms.  Even the pets were friendly!  I  feel now like I have extended family all over the US and in England too.  It might be hard to imagine how you could become so close to someone in such a short period of time, but remember that I was corresponding with these folks for months before the tour, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect before I got there although I was always surprised by great new things once I got to meet them in person.  And you have to understand that all of these people are "Christmas people."  I don't think I need to explain to you what that means!

Anyhow, it was really hard to leave the Greer's house and I hope I get to see them again sometime in the future.  I also want Mrs. Greer, Kenny's Mom, to know that she is in my prayers for good health and a wonderful new year!!  What a strong, vibrant lady!

The next day it was an eight hour drive on to Georgia.........

Saturday, January 8, 2011

December 20th

I got up, packed up and headed back up to the Mt. Airy area....Pilot Mountain, to be exact.  You might remember it as "Mt. Pilot" from the Andy Griffith Show.  As I drove through town I knew immediately when I was getting to the home of Larry and Rachel Charpiat because all you could see were Christmas decorations.  Larry and Rachel far...have the biggest property and the most decorations of any of the places I visited.  FIVE ACRES of lights, wire frames, little houses with animated figures in the windows, blow molds...everything!  I hung around with them all afternoon and they showed me a grand time.  We went down to "Mayberry" and ate at Snappy Lunch, which is the first ever real Mt. Airy business that was mentioned on the TV show.  I had to have their world famous pork chop sandwich...holy was DEEELISH and I'm sure responsible for packing on at least five pounds right there on the spot.  We then went over to Floyd's Barber Shop, in which the barber, whose actual name was Russell, was holding court.  The guy must be about 97 years old but he was sharp as a tack and took a lot of time to talk with me about when he cut Andy's hair and then he had me sit in one of his old fashioned chairs and had a picture done with me.  I loved every minute of it.  The next stop was the little complex that held the "Mayberry" courthouse and featured a real squad car from the show parked out front.  I went into the courthouse and met an Andy look-alike who was playing the Sheriff and  who posed with his old fashioned phone for me.  There was a couple there waiting for him to marry them!  And he says this happens all the time!  Of course I had to have my photo take in one of the jail cells!
Larry and Rachel wanted to take me on a Squad Car Tour but the same guy who was playing the Sheriff was the one who does the tours and there wasn't time to wait for him to finish the wedding!

In all it was a blast of a tour through Mayberry, a town I never in a million years imagined I'd visit.  And I do want Larry and Rachel to know that I was wearing my Mayberry sweatshirt at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and someone actually stopped me to ask where I'd gotten it.  The guy was stunned to learn that there is a real "Mayberry."  I am certain he is going to visit there one of these days!

We took the last bit of time we had before we had to get ready for the evening and Larry and Rachel drove me up to the top of Pilot Mountain.  It's the funniest looking mountain you ever saw, as you can see in the picture above.  What a beautiful view from the top.  It was just so peaceful and quiet.  I'd like to go back up there someday and have a picnic.

But the real fun was yet to come.  I went  to the hotel just to spruce up for a bit and by the time I returned to the Charpiat's house it was dark and all lit up.  Traffic was already lining up to park in their parking lot...yes, they have a parking lot on their property!  They have way too many lights to synchronize, so they just synchronize in a few select spots.  I honestly cannot describe how amazing the whole thing is. They made paths through the wooded area and people get out of their cars and walk through the five acres of "Santa's Enchanted Forest" of  lights(over 200 thousand!), animated figures and things.  There's something everywhere you look Larry has been decorating since the 1960's and has many pieces, like the animated figures in the houses, that he has kept since then.  I should explain that Larry and Rachel are retirees and this is their hobby...they do it together and look for pieces to add and plan it all year round.  I thought that was really cool that they have a hobby they can enjoy together and that makes other people so happy.  I'm serious when I say that this place is practically an amusement park.  If they wanted to charge five bucks a head I'm sure people would pay it, but when I mentioned that Larry said that would mean a lot of families wouldn't be able to afford to come, so they only accept donations from people who want to help cover the cost of their electric bill. 
If you want to see pictures and watch the local news bit about the concert that night then go to the website here:
And congrats Larry and Rachel for doing so much for the Pilot Mountain Outreach Center.  I was proud to be a part of it.
As it has been EVERYWHERE I have gone on this tour, it was really hard to leave Larry and Rachel behind. What a couple of dear, dear people.  I know we will meet again and in the meantime you will be in a special place in my heart. God bless you!!
PS...William Bottomley from Ennice came up to the concert with the van from the TV station where he works and he filmed some of the Pilot Mountain concert for their news broadcast.  If you'd like to see it, check it out here:  Thank you so much William!