Baird’s light display turns on Dec. 11

What started out as a way to make his children happier during the holidays has snowballed into an event that makes hundreds of people’s holidays brighter for the past five decades.
Jack Baird’s Christmas lights in rural Red Oak will be turned on for the first time this year Dec. 11.
Jack Baird, the backbone of the operation, said it all started when he threw some Christmas lights up on a fence outside their home when his kids were still believing in Santa.
“Our kids were 7 or 8 at the time and they really liked them. They wanted to know if we could put more up the next year, so we extended it around the place a little bit and the next thing we knew, cars were stopping,” Jack recalled. “We kept on expanding a little more each year.”
As the children got older, their roles in decorating grew as the displays did.  With Jack being in his late 80s, he still remains very active, but leaves the majority of the decorating and repairs to the younger generations of Bairds.
Animated light displays at Baird’s range from a ferris wheel, horse and carriage, combine, and helicopter to an 18 foot tall saluting soldier. Some of the displays have been constructed by the Bairds, others were purchased. Although these lit displays are only viewable to the public for a few weeks out of the year, it takes months to get them ready. However, he added LED lights and solid state controllers have been lifesavers over the older models.
“I don’t have a favorite display. I like them all, except for when they don’t work,” Jack chuckled. “This stuff hardly ever runs smooth. Since it is our hobby, we just do it; cold weather and all.”
The worst weather Baird recalls was in early 2000 when they weren’t able to have too many nightly performances due to the weather.
“Night after night we had to shut them down because the weather was so bad,” Jack said. “We’ve also had years where there hasn’t been any snow. The weather makes a big difference.”
These days, Jack said the lights are all set to timers, which turn on and off automatically. Once the timers go off, there isn’t anything he can do about it.
“A couple years ago, a guy pulled into our drive way and got out of the car and started pounding on our door. He wanted us to turn the lights back on. He got rather irate about it, but it is seldom we have problems like that.”
For those partaking in the well-known light display, there is a donation box to help defray the costs affiliated. Jack said they never intended to have the box, but people kept leaving money in the mailbox, which isn’t always a safe and secure place.
The numbers of cars that pass by the Bairds each year aren’t counted, but Jack suspects he’s on his third or fourth generation of families who take their children to see the lights each year. He believes the light display this year might have more meaning to people because of the past year with social distancing.
“You don’t have to get out of the car. You don’t have to do anything except drive by a couple times to see it all. It’s a pretty safe event,” Jack said.
There are people who wonder how many more years the Baird Christmas Lights will be an event, but Jack says not to worry.
 “It has gotten to the point where we want to see what we can do,” said Jack.
Helping Jack with the lights are sons, Chris and Kirk Baird, Chris’ wife, Christine; son-in-law Scott Suchting; grandson Jordan Baird and Sandy Severn. Granddaughter Kaitlin Suchting mans the Facebok page, and son-in-law Miles Russell is always willing to assist with electrical issues.
A new addition in 2021 is an airplane, similar to the helicopter with its spinning propeller, said Chris.
He added the nice weather has been fantastic, allowing them to get twice as much done when it’s warm and dry.
“We’ve always done it as a family, that’s the main thing, and to enjoy it. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it,” said Chris.  
The lights will turn off New Year’s Day.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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