When Brandon Wooden got a traffic ticket over his vehicle strung with holiday lights, he thought that might be the end of the “Christmas car.”
Apparently, he had a change of heart.
CNN broadcast a report about Wooden, a train conductor who grew up in Bluffton but now lives in Hardeeville, and his attempt at spreading Christmas cheer around Beaufort County on Thursday morning.
“I just like to see people’s reactions, spread a little love, joy,” he told the television network. “I call it, ‘spread the glow.’ ”
Never miss a local story.
Wooden’s fans collected enough money on Go Fund Me to pay off his $232.50 fine for operating a vehicle with improper lighting. He had been pulled over by a Beaufort Police officer on Monday night.
He said it was his first such ticket in five years of decorating his Ford Taurus for Christmas, though he had gotten a warning several weeks ago.
Hope Able, spokesperson for the Beaufort Police Department, told The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette that the ticket was issued for a state traffic violation — specifically in violation of Section 56-5-4590 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.
“In that statute, it specifically states which color every light (on a motor vehicle) has to be,” Able said.
According to that statute, clearance lamps, marker lamps and reflectors mounted on the front of the vehicle have to be amber in color. Rear lighting should be red, “except the stop light or other signal device,” and both back-up lamps and the lights around the license plate should be white.
On Wednesday night, Bam Robinson of Sheldon shared video a Jasper County Sheriff’s Office cruiser sandwiched between two decorated vehicles, his “Bam Sleigh” and Wooden’s “Christmas car.”
“It’s raining, but we having a ball,” Robinson says in the video. “This is the Christmas spirit. This is what you call the Christmas spirit. ... Happy birthday, Jesus.”
Robinson said he’s been decorating his car for the last 14 years. This year his features about 4,500 carefully positioned lights — he said it takes him about two weeks to get them all just right.
He, too, has gotten tickets in the past.
“I can pass 100 state troopers, 100 cops, and they’ll all give me thumbs up, but there’ll always be one,” he said, adding that even though he’s traveled in his lighted car to Charleston and Columbia for school and church programs and to visit nursing homes, he’s only gotten tickets in Beaufort.
Robinson said knowing that he’s brightened someone’s day makes it worth the risk.
“It’s a purpose, it’s a meaning,” he said, “showing love through the lights and giving.”
He said sometimes people will tell him they are having a bad day, “but their whole mood changes” when they see his car.
Those sentiments seemed to be supported by commenters on the Go Fund Me page collecting money to pay off Wooden’s fine.
One fan wrote, “A small token of appreciation for the Christmas spirit and cheer Brandon is bringing to the area, despite the Scrooge’s and Grinch’s. Merry Christmas!”
Posted another: “My boys love seeing this car! They get so excited! We love seeing it around Christmas time and I hope the police leave him alone.”