During the monthlong process of setting up 23,000 or so Christmas lights on their home, Aubrey and Nick Scroggs have an annual tradition of seeking out inspiration. About five times a week, they load up their two kids in the car and head off.
When the Scroggs moved to Riverview in 2020, the pandemic made it hard to meet people around town and learn the best spots for their drives. As the Christmas season arrived, the family realized they were spending more time trying to find light displays than they were actually admiring them. They couldn’t find one place that mapped all the local displays. So, they made their own: a website called The Holiday Atlas.
“We said, ‘We’re keeping track of this anyway,’ ” said Aubrey Scroggs, 35. “I know that there are certainly neighbors who are doing the same thing.”
Now in its second year, theholidayatlas.com has over 200 listings, each with a photo, address and description. You’ll find Tampa Bay’s most festive residential and commercial light displays, plus boat parades and community events. The listings are broken down by county and city, with each plotted on a clickable Google map.
Aubrey Scroggs loves an A-frame house in St. Petersburg decorated like a gingerbread house, with icing along the roof and glowing candies lining the door. Nick Scroggs, 37, and their 5-year-old son, Colton, love a street in Lithia where the homes coordinated Star Wars-themed displays, complete with synchronized light shows set to the soundtrack. Seven-month-old Casey just loves being in the car, which puts him to sleep.
The Scroggs used their work experience to craft the website themselves — Aubrey does technical consulting, and Nick, the Holiday Atlas webmaster, has worked for startup companies. They printed out a sign for their lawn to advertise the project and made cards to drop off at homes around town.
“Congratulations!” it reads. “Your display has been recommended for The Holiday Atlas.”
The card contains details on how to find the website and nominate others. There’s also directions on how to opt out if the homeowners don’t want to be listed online. Only one person took them up on that.
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People can nominate festive light displays through the website. But most come via email, or the Holiday Atlas Facebook group. At the beginning of this holiday season, this group had about 300 members. Now, there are nearly 3,000.
“It’s kind of taken a life of its own,” Aubrey Scroggs said. “People are excited about their displays, even posting and saying, ‘Hey, tonight, we got hot cocoa.’ ”
Member Diane Castillo said the displays in the group have already inspired her to order more lights for next year.
“Many of us have elderly parents who don’t get out much due to COVID, and seeing the displays and meeting so many nice people at my home and others’ homes has brought so much joy,” she wrote in a Facebook comment.
“It was kind of like a treasure hunt,” said another member, Carrie Wildes, who grew up visiting holiday displays with her parents. “It just makes it easier to find really cool light displays and continue on a tradition.”
Michele Todaro Monteleone found the Facebook group after someone else nominated her home. Being listed has brought more visitors to her light display in Riverview, where her family collects blankets for the homeless and letters to Santa.
“We just picked out (a) random letter from the box and my family is working on fulfilling that child’s wish and delivering an early present from Santa’s elves,” she wrote on Facebook.
Thanks to new connections made on the site, the Scroggses organized the first golf cart parade in Riverview, which will take place Tuesday at the Summerfield Crossings Golf Club. They’re also already planning a beta version of a new website for next year, which will have expanded functionality and features like special badges.
But first, they’re going to enjoy the current holiday season — and their new favorite displays on the Holiday Atlas.
“It’s filling a lot of hearts with smiles and Christmas spirit, and it’s everything we wanted out of it,” Aubrey Scroggs said.