Wichita’s biggest holiday light display will shine half as brightly this year

Wichita’s biggest residential Christmas light display will shine less than half as brightly this year.

Lights on Texas, a display that each year attracts thousands of spectators and turns a west Wichita street near 119th and Maple into a holiday traffic jam, is downsizing this year.

Though the home’s owners, Brad Short and Scott Lawrence, still plan to decorate it, they’ll use only around 200,000 lights this time, down from the nearly 500,000 they put up last year. They’re also not decorating their yard, which in the past has been covered by dozens of lighted figurines, And they won’t have Santa and Mrs. Claus stationed outside accepting visitors and posing for photos.

The display also will be up just from Thanksgiving to Christmas this year, Lawrence said. In previous years, they kept it going until New Year’s Eve. And they’ll shut things off earlier this year, too — at 10 p.m. on weeknights at at 11 p.m. on weekend nights.

The main reason for the change, Lawrence said, is that Short lost his father, Gary Short, to cancer in March of this year. Gary was a big fan of the lights, and he was an especially intricate player in the Santa Claus part of the display. The homeowners this year aren’t up for throwing themselves full-on at the project without him.

“We just decided we’re going to concentrate on family,” Lawrence said.

Short’s and Lawrence’s display has been a Wichita favorite for almost 10 years and even followed them from one address to another.

Back in 2010, Short was a 28-year-old holiday lights buff who at an estate sale managed to nab most of the famous decorations that had been displayed for years on the Wey Mansion, a big Victorian house at 1751 N. Park Place.

For decades, people had flocked to the Wey Mansion to see its display, which included an animated Santa Claus statue that would wave from the balcony and a reindeer and sleigh that was always perched atop the porch.

When the then-owners of the mansion decided to move, Short talked them into selling him all their Christmas lights and decorations for $900. He combined them with the things he’d already collected, and that year, he displayed it all on his house at 1122 N. Lawrence Court. The mega-watt spectacle he created became known as Lights on Lawrence.

11603 W Texas St
Lights on Texas goes back 19 years, and it gets bigger every year. This year, though, it will be less than half its normal size. Jaime Green File photo

But in 2015, Short and Lawrence moved, taking the display with them. Ever since, they’ve been putting all the decorations up on their sprawling ranch-style home on Texas. It’s always included a big display in the front yard that had lighted trees, reindeer, candy canes, snow men, an animated carousel and more covering nearly every inch of grass.

Santa and Mrs. Claus also were a part of the display, and people would stand in long lines to pose for a picture with them. Lawrence said he spent the past few Christmas seasons out in the street directing traffic until 1 a.m.

This year’s scaled-back display will include dancing lights that cover the house and the roof. And the Santa from the Wey Mansion as well as the reindeer and sleigh will be put up, too.

Will the full display return next year?

Possibly, Lawrence said. But it’s too soon to say.

“We don’t know,” he said. “We aren’t selling anything. We’re not getting rid of anything. We’re not going to say no.”

Short and Lawrence are working on a big Halloween display though, and Lawrence said the finishing touches will be ready by Thursday.

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Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.