Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dream of holiday light show coming true

Dave Parris hopes to create a Christmas wonderland.

Dave Parris hopes to create a Christmas wonderland.

Dave Parris had endured a particularly brutal week of cancer treatments. He dreaded the thought of putting on a tuxedo and mingling with partiers kicking off the annual Chasco Fiesta.

But one thing you must know: This man doesn't break promises. He had told his 9-year-old granddaughter, Mitella, that he would take her to the ball. She had circled March 21 on her calendar, picked out a special dress.

"I was going,'' Parris said later, "even if somebody had to duct tape me to the chair. I wasn't going to disappoint Mitella.''

Parris soldiered his way to the Spartan Manor and waited for the evening's climactic moment, the naming of King Pithla and Queen Chasco. The annual tradition dates back to 1947 in New Port Richey and recognizes exemplary volunteerism and community service.

The crowd stood and cheered when Parris and Synovus Bank senior vice president Candace Bell Glewen were crowned. Mitella crawled onto his lap, wrapped her arms around him and said, "I prayed really hard that you would win, Pappy.'' And suddenly he didn't feel so sick anymore.

Parris, a 61-year-old Realtor, was nominated by the Good Samaritan Health Clinic, where he regularly donates his skills fixing leaks in the roof or adding on a room. His resume for good deeds is long, but one project in particular keeps him going, much like the promise he made to Mitella. It will be a big part of his legacy.

"I just hope I'm around when it opens,'' he said.

In May 2012, Parris was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer. It invaded his liver, bones and stomach and left doctors baffled at how he not only survived but kept working and helping others. It also left him with a sense of urgency to create a Christmas season attraction at the 220-acre Safety Town off State Road 52.

Parris got busy last fall trying to recreate a popular light show like the one in his former hometown, Altoona, Pa. Since then, he has set up a nonprofit corporation (Santa Is Real Inc.), secured a $150,000 loan from the Concourse Council, purchased $100,000 worth of LED lights and leased a 36-by-80-foot ice skating rink.

He has set Nov. 27 as a grand opening for the "Celebration of Lights,'' where families will pay $20 a carload to drive a mile through twinkling animated displays and decorated Christmas trees while listening to carols. The display will run through Jan. 3.

The Pasco Sheriff's Office maintains Safety Town and for years has taught life-saving skills to elementary school children. The 14 miniature buildings, including a replica of the county's historic courthouse, will be decorated for the holidays, and stages will be set up for concerts and other entertainment. Sheriff Chris Nocco has blessed the project, and jail inmates have thinned woods to accommodate some of the animated creatures.

Local companies and individuals buy or lease the lights, and the corporation stores and maintains them. Each display will include the name of the sponsor, such as the oncologist who bought a 60-foot-long animated scene with Santa Claus snowboarding down a mountain.

Parris gets almost giddy when he describes lights in the shape of a concrete mixing truck, spewing snow out the back onto palm trees. Another shows an igloo with a 31-foot Rudolph reindeer fishing. "He pulls out a 20-foot redfish,'' Parris said.

In time, Parris says, proceeds from the annual event will be distributed to nonprofit agencies as determined by the board of directors. His daughter, Kara Parris, 40, who moved from New Jersey with her family to help care for him, has agreed to direct the corporation.

"This is a monster project,'' he said, "but we've made amazing progress. At first, I was afraid to pull the trigger. I was afraid that if I started this thing and died in 30, 60 or 90 days, what would happen? Now I know. People have come out of the woodwork to make this work. They have answered my prayers.''

For more information, visit celebrationoflights.net.

.on the web

The lights show

For more information, visit celebrationoflights.net

Dream of holiday light show coming true 04/04/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 4, 2014 7:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and similar events, saying they are inappropriate could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  2. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  3. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  4. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  5. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence

    National

    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …