Memories of a quintessential Hilton Head Christmas event: Dove Street lights

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comDecember 13, 2013 

The Dove Street Christmas lights glow with their customary brilliance.

JAY KARR — Staff photo

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    Email David Lauderdale at dlauderdale@islandpacket.com.

Thanks to Paul Beckler, one of the founders of the Dove Street Festival of Lights that graced the south-Hilton Head Island street every Christmas from 1990 to 2010, for sharing some recollections.

"Dove Street Retrospective"

By Paul Beckler

Lift your eyes

Look high above

They twinkle and shine

The lights of Dove.

For those who don't know, our street was a fun place to gather during the holidays and enjoy a festive light display for 20 wonderful years. When visitors began to ask if they could contribute to our electric bill, we declined their offers but brought in a truly worthy charitable organization instead, the Deep Well Project.

Over the years, islanders contributed more than $100,000 in cash and 40,000 cans of food to needy families, as well as 20,000 presents for kids. A few volunteers assisted. High school students helped us put up decorations. An entertainment coordinator nicknamed "Holly Jolly Julie" managed church and school group musical performances. An assortment of characters including Frosty and Santa roamed around every night to welcome thousands of people who came. We passed out 20,000 picture postcards to contributors. Our FM station, Radio Free Dove Street, broadcast our message nightly for the last two years, through an antennae strung up in one of our palm trees.

We had some unforgettable experiences.

THE DONATION

A seemingly perturbed visitor wanted to contribute $5 cash for the Deep Well. I explained that we could only take checks. She proceeded to borrow my pen and sped off down the street, only to stop at the very end. Eventually and nervously, I approached the car, only to find the pen lodged in the top of a rolled up window, a folded check in the clip. As I slowly removed it, the window closed and she drove off into the night. We thought the check would be for a penny. Wrong -- it was for $1,000. Go figure.

DISTURBING THE PEACE

Sitting at the end of our driveway late one evening, we suddenly heard music. Coming around the corner was a New Orleans style street band playing carols with a tuba, trombone, trumpet and drum. We applauded, they stopped, and we sang along with them. A police car pulled up. The officer got out and said, "I'm so sorry to tell you this. But one of your neighbors has complained. It is very late."

"Oh," came the response, "we apologize. We will stop right now."

"Well," he said, "as long as I'm here maybe I'll sing the last one with you."

So we all sang until a second police car pulled up. This time a policewoman got out.

"I can't believe you're singing. This is a complaint!" she said to him, and continued, "Well, I might as well sing too." And she did. Then they arrested us. Just kidding, but we did have to stop.

LIGHTS AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Most folks don't realize that there were only a handful of neighbors who created and maintained all of those displays. A majority of homes had absentee owners. In order to create a magical village, we were tasked with decorating all of these homes. Over time, this became more of a burden for us, and we eventually had to call it quits. When we did, the town requested that we meet with them to find an alternate venue, such as a town park. We met, but found that the electrical infrastructure would not suffice. After turning to local businesses to fund our project, we were left empty-handed. Not wanting to suggest spending taxpayer money to keep it alive, we decided to back away.

The day we pulled the plug, it was announced in USA Today (true!). To this day, it is still listed as one of the top 13 Hilton Head Island annual events listed in Wikipedia. Perhaps what is now known as an urban legend will someday come back to life if the Coligny Circle area turns into a walking park.

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