MIDLAND, Texas — For more than two decades, the house on the corner of Ashwood has been a Midland Christmas destination – you can’t miss it.
“My brain 365 days a year is always thinking, what can I build and make my display different,” Ricky Thames said.
This is Thames’ gift to his hometown for more than two decades. He has kept detailed record of every single display. Man hours, materials made and lights used, all documented with accompanying photos in half a dozen photo albums and even more manila folders. So many memories, it covered Thames’ kitchen counters – he pulled all of them out to show NewsWest 9 for this story.
In total, Thames has created 23 displays, each marked by a spark of imagination and never the same display twice. He has appropriately dubbed it, the Thames Christmas Extravaganza and rightfully so.
For more than two decades, car loads, busses, limos, you name the mode of transportation and you’ll find them all lined up in Grassland, slowly making their way to catch a glimpse of Thames’ Christmas display.
Though, this year, is the most different. There are no lights. The brightest house on the block is dark.
The Thames’ home is essentially empty, minus the essentials and load of moving boxes. On top of recovering from several surgeries, Ricky and his wife are in the process of moving to Colorado. Both of their sons are in college out of town, Ricky just retired from Oncor after more than three decades of work (an appropriate career for the guy who loves lights) and they’re building their dream home.
“It is really bittersweet,” Thames said.
It is the end of one chapter and the start of another.
“We’ve just had so much fun with it over the years. I could sit here and talk all night about the different things and the fun memories we have,” he said.
He had dedicated circuits, logged thousands of man hours and worked with even more lights. This display turned into more than just something to drive by and look at.
Front and center of each display was a donation box for the Jubilee Food Pantry.
“I never thought it would turn into something like this,” he said.
We’re talking tens of thousands of pounds of food donated to the pantry over the span of a decade.
“People are in need and I just enjoy taking loads and loads of canned goods and monetary donations every year that we collected,” Thames said. “They’re always thrilled to death when I show up.”
The focus this year? Obviously not the front yard, but something from within – gratitude.
“I really thank West Texas for supporting my display and everyone that has come out for the food bank,” Thames said. “I hope my Christmas display has made their holiday a lot brighter every year for 23 years. We just enjoy doing this and giving back to the community.”
Plus, a challenge to pick up where Ricky Thames left off.
“Just because we aren’t here doesn’t mean you can’t give food and help people out. It’s a need every year,” he said.
And perhaps a lesson: Christmas isn’t about you and what you’ll receive. The greatest gift is in the give.