BRANDON — From now until almost New Year's Eve, thousands of cars will come.
On Christmas Eve, there will be cars backed up for about a half-mile just to get inside the gate. But for those who make the effort, it's a holiday spectacle described by many as unlike any other in Brandon.
"Oh, Barrington Oaks, that's the place that has all the Christmas decorations," one resident recalls of a conversation between a Realtor and prospective buyers.
Walt Braudis is one of the few original homeowners in Barrington Oaks, a 51-home neighborhood near Lumsden and John Moore roads. Braudis moved in 25 years ago, and it wasn't long before he helped start a tradition that gets nearly full participation from all of his neighbors.
The tradition is simple: Hang Christmas lights and decorations on the outside of your house, encourage others to do the same and watch as car after car rolls through the neighborhood while passengers take in the view.
"We were the only two New Englanders in here at the time, and we always did it in Boston," Braudis said of himself and a former neighbor. "We decided we'd start it down here, and it didn't take long before we had 51 homes putting up Christmas decorations."
The neighborhood gets so much participation that it's easy to think that putting up lights is part of the deed restrictions. It's not, but many residents will tell you they spend many hours — and sometimes days — decorating because they enjoy it and because it brings a smile to kids' faces.
"We do it for the community," Braudis said.
Each house takes on its own look. There's Jim and Beth Clark, residents of Barrington since 1989. Beth does most of the decorating herself, and she tries to add something new every year.
"You get bored with the same stuff every year," she said. "What I've noticed is that kids like to see things that move."
So, this year, in addition to the usual lighted garland hanging above her windows and garage, there's a rocking see-saw with Santa Claus and several reindeer in her front yard.
Next door, Don and Nancy Eddington's front windows will become storefront windows with spotlights shining on several dolls that can be seen from the street.
Down the road, Brian Andrews has a Santa figurine in a hammock and dressed in Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. There are plenty of Nativity sets, inflatable Christmas characters and icicle lights throughout the neighborhood.
"We used to drive through here ourselves, and it was very nice, very beautiful," said Andrews, a Barrington resident for nine years. "Every year it's gotten bigger and bigger."
Not everyone is into holiday decorating. Several years ago, one resident got into an argument with the homeowners association's directors because he didn't want to decorate. The resident eventually stuck a wooden cutout of the Grinch in his yard and put one light bulb on it.
"It was hilarious," Andrews said. "Everybody loved it."
Residents are asked to put luminaria on the sidewalk on Christmas Eve and Christmas night, but there doesn't seem to be any pressure beyond that. There are even several families who decorate despite practicing non-Christian religions.
"I don't know anybody in the neighborhood who doesn't welcome it," homeowners association president Rick Bernaldo said. "The majority of the neighborhood I think looks forward to it."
On Christmas Eve, someone will don a Santa Claus suit and hand out candy canes.
"We walk as a group just kind of around the neighborhood and look at the lights," Beth Clark said of her family's Christmas Eve tradition. "And usually we move faster than the cars."
Kevin Smetana can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2439.