A holiday tradition for the past 28 years, Lewis Lights on White Chapel Road outside of Purvis has entertained thousands of visitors each holiday season. But because of Grinch-like thieves who vandalized the property earlier this week, the chance for lighting the way into another holiday season was placed in jeopardy.
But on Tuesday night, after hearing from hundreds of people across the Greater Hattiesburg area who have included a trip to the holiday showcase as part of their Christmas traditions, the Lewis family has decided to push forward.
“We may be down right now, but we are NOT OUT,” they posted Tuesday evening on their Facebook page.
“We are planning to go forward with another year with the community’s help. We ARE going to see about setting up a donation account at a local bank soon.”
The account is in response from the many citizens offering to set up GoFundMe accounts and other means of support to help the family recoup some of their losses to ensure the tradition that started in 1989 and is open free to the public is not lost.
Families who are no longer residents of the Pine Belt reminisced on the Facebook page about how they returned for Thanksgiving each year and toured the lights and many whimsical cutouts with their children and grandchildren before returning home each holiday season.
Thieves took thousands of feet of electrical wire and electrical plug boxes used to illuminate the more than 200,000 colored lights annually.
The lights are turned on Thanksgiving night and burn nightly (weather permitting) until the first of the new year.
The family, with the help of friends and neighbors, is currently working to get the remainder of the lights down and stored.
A post earlier in the week stated, “IF we are able to do this again this Christmas it will be a miracle. We are talking thousands of feet of wiring and 20 plug boxes that were stolen. Once we get it all down and stored safely, we will try to assess what it will take to get us back up if we decide to do so. If we make the decision to open back up, we will let you know where you can donate. IF we decide to fix it all, we will need everyone's help.”
The family has also said they will install cameras and video surveillance prior to any lights being turned on, so something like this doesn’t happen again.
The Lewis family has been touched by the amount of love they’ve been shown since posting about the vandalism. “We can’t just yet,” they said in regard to closing the holiday lights down permanently. “We will be in major need of help in getting this fix done and everything ready for next season. Thank you for all the love you have shown us. God willing there will be a 29th year!”
The vandalism is under investigation by the Lamar County Sheriff’s Department. If you have any information, please contact them at 601-794-1005.