Family’s Christmas display stretches across three houses in Perry

bpurser@macon.comDecember 15, 2013 

Christmas display stretches across three houses in Perry

PERRY -- For brothers Colton and Jim Sexton, probably the most rewarding aspect of their family’s Christmas display that stretches across three houses in the 600 block of Ball Street is the response from children.

Colton Sexton enjoys seeing the excited faces of children peering out of cars as they ride by. Some children, he said, think Santa lives in the white-painted house that’s part of the display, he said.

The white house features the most lights as well as two life-sized Santas on the front porch. Thank-you letters from children often appear in the mailbox out front.

One child once enclosed $5 with a handwritten note concerned about the cost of the lights, Jim Sexton recalled. The Sextons don’t expect or need donations for the display, but that simple gift offered from the heart of a child was priceless, Jim Sexton said.

The brothers, executive officers for the family-owned Davis Oil Co. in Perry, say they also enjoy watching one of their special helpers on the project.

That helper, first-grader Brant Beckham, has a knack for hammering down the stakes on the more than 30 blow-up Christmas characters and countless other lighted decorations across the display.

“It’s the biggest in Perry,” the 7-year-old said of what he’d tell a friend about the display.

Brant said his favorite thing is the giant-sized, blow-up reindeer near the white house.

His dad, Ed Beckham, said he often has to pull over when driving by the display if Brant sees anything amiss. His son insists on righting any blown over character that very minute, he said.

“One day he was out there working, and some of his friends drove by and screamed and waved at him,” Ed Beckham said of Brant. “I think he got a kick out of that.”

Ed Beckham and Colton Sexton have been friends since college.

A Christmas tradition

The Sextons, along with the help of family and friends such as the Beckhams, have been setting up the display for the past 10 years.

It started modestly with a few decorations.

They first bought the three houses for potential expansion of the family’s company, a wholesale distributor of petroleum products that was started in 1946 by their grandfather Mayo Davis. The properties, which were incorporated into the company’s property on Jernigan Street that parallels Ball Street, are used for storage.

But it seemed fitting to the family that the homes have seasonal decorations.

“They were begging for it,” Colton Sexton said. “They needed decorations.”

And what has now become a tradition in Perry was born.

“A lot people think the city does it,” Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said. “It’s gotten to be a draw for the city.”

Odds and ends

The brothers steadily have added to the display through the years, finding the lawn and other decorations at online auction sites and retail outlets, Jim Sexton said.

“We’re looking really all year long,” Colton Sexton added.

The brothers noted that many of their friends also are on the lookout for additions.

“I think they get a lot pleasure of their decoration being added,” Colton Sexton said.

In addition to new finds, the brothers routinely are replacing decorations. Because the display runs 24/7, the decorations wear out quickly and need replacement, Jim Sexton said.

One of the enduring lawn displays among the many Santas is one that has a stained-glass appearance. It probably dates back to the 1950s, Colton Sexton said.

The oldest blow-up seasonal character is the Grinch who stole Christmas. In all, it takes about eight days to get the display set up.

The heartwarming stories of children wondering if Santa lived in one of the houses and writing letters saying how much they love the display make the effort worthwhile, Colton Sexton said.

“Those kind of things keep us motivated to do it every year,” he said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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