“Those lights you got out back right there make a difference. You know you can’t stop now.”
Mike knew what his customer said was true. He was right. Those lights, Lake Linda’s Christmas Lights, were making a difference. There was no way they were going to stop now.
Lake Linda’s Christmas lights are one of Hampstead’s greatest Christmas gifts. Tucked away on private property, located off Highway 17 behind Bojangles in Hampstead, Lake Linda’s Christmas Lights are a huge display, rivaling many professionally scaled Christmas light designs. But they aren’t done by professionals or with a corporate budget. This gift to the community comes from a small, hardworking, local family, straight out of their own pockets, on their own private land.
Because they have Christmas spirit of course! And that means SHARING JOY.
The spark that ignited the blaze
Mike and Tonia Register own Wholesale Tires in Hampstead, and call the property behind it, home. Both are North Carolina natives and have lived in Hampstead most of their lives.
About 6 or 7 years ago, they did what many families do in December; waited until it was dark, loaded up their kids and drove all around town, looking for cheerful displays of Christmas lights that ignite such magical delight in the hearts of children.
What they found was pitiful. Perhaps it’s due to the cost of electricity. Perhaps it was due to the lack of through traffic in the small private communities that comprise much of Hampstead – less people to drive by and enjoy the lights, so why bother? Perhaps it was because of the time and effort it takes to string lights onto second stories and hook up enough extension cords. Or perhaps it was due to a lack of Christmas spirit.
Whatever the reason, the Christmas light displays in and around Hampstead were lacking. And the disappointment in the faces of their children was more than Mike and Tonia could bear. Mike went and purchased his own Christmas lights that very year, and that was the beginning of everything.
The blaze grew
Mike’s mom (the namesake of Lake Linda) was ill with cancer and she delighted in the sparkling display of Christmas cheer.
“She really loved it, so next thing you know, it had taken on a life of it’s own,” Tonia explained.
With shopping savvy and determination, the Registers begin their hunt for Christmas decorations to add to the display. They start their hunt on the 26th of December and they hunt until December 23 of the following year. Every vacation, every shopping trip, every weekend getaway is just another opportunity to search out pieces for the next great display.
The Elf’s Wife
Tonia refers to her husband of 14 years as the Head Elf, but she’s no slacker herself. The compassionate Elf Wife with long swishing hair and a soft smile puts in 40-60 hours PER SONG to get each song and light coordination perfectly sequenced. She programs several songs to sync with the light displays, showing off a dazzling blaze of swirling, whirling, flashing, running, twinkling, dancing lights in every color and design imaginable. Tune into 89.5 to hear the magic.
From trash to treasure
Their incredibly creative minds, coupled with Mike’s ability to fix and create just about anything, allows them to give new life to scraps of metal that others would only see as disposable. Long metal rods rest casually in a pile of random items in the shop. To the untrained eye, it’s nothing. But those with an extra dose of Christmas spirit can easily see that they are angel wings, just waiting to be shaped and fitted with lights, set up to fly across the lake or perhaps above Santa’s sleigh.
Projects are frequently staged in the Register’s living room where they can fix, tweak, and replace lights after work and on the weekends. Every light gets replaced with LED lights, a necessary step to keep the electricity bill low. Even with the LEDs, their electricity bill increases by at least a thousand dollars during the season. But that doesn’t deter them for a minute.
“As long as we can do it, we’ll do,” Tonia said softly, with noble conviction. Her favorite part of the day is in the evening, when she gets to hear the kids laughter and see their excitement as they inch through the lake loop.
They never dreamed this light show would be the event that it is today. It’s the kind of thing Christmas movies are made of, where Christmas cheer just spreads like wildfire.
Buddy the Elf said, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” They didn’t sing. They went bigger.
The Christmas spirit doesn’t stem from their light displays. It pours from the very souls of Mike and Tonia. It’s their generosity, their desire to share the delight with the entire community. Their firm stance against charging. It’s the way they consistently find ways to give more, through collections to Toys for Tots and bringing in a live Santa Claus. The joy they share spreads throughout the entire community.
It takes a village
“The people who need it the most aren’t the ones who can pay for it,” Mike shared candidly. They are adamant about not charging, but they aren’t left to sort it out entirely alone.
A variety of elves pop in and out to help them throughout the year. Their kids are happy to lend a hand when available, along with Mike’s sister and brother-in-law, and their cousin Wanda. Dr. Mike Cherubini, from Cherubini Orthodontics in Hampstead, frequents the site, putting in hours of volunteering alongside the Head Elf. Justin Holly, a Captain at Holly Ridge Fire and Rescue, brings his sons to help with the decorating.
Santa Claus & Toys for Tots
Volunteers don’t stop with the elves! The man in red himself is known to frequent Lake Linda, sometimes even bringing cookies and candy canes. You can check their Facebook page to see when Santa is likely to show.
Old Saint Nicholas has been played by TJ from Arnold’s Landscaping this year, and the kids are soooo thankful.
In previous years, the spot was held by John Helms, a very active and dedicated volunteer for Toys for Tots. This is the first time in 50 years he’s been unable to play Santa due to illness, but it’s not stopping him from collecting Toys for Tots again. Last year, the Register’s collected about 300 toys to donate. You can drop off your Toys for Tots donation while touring the light display or at Wholesale Tires. Helms does his best to keep the toys local, and we all know this is going to be a tough Christmas for thousands of locals.
The Head Elf
People who live here and love it here will tell you one of the top reasons they love to call this place home, is the people. The kind, generous, intelligent, decent, honorable people you get to call neighbors. And Mike Register is one of those people.
“I feel like if we ever charged for the light show, it would take out the Christmas spirit. And that’s why we do it – the Christmas Spirit,” Mike said with a half smile, his blue eyes twinkling as he glanced up from the car he was working on.
His favorite part is just like his bride’s: the people.
Linda is a trooper, and trying her best to fight the odds, but those who know cancer, know it’s a wicked beast. For health reasons, she spends the cold months in Florida, but she braves the bouts of cold weather here in December so she can enjoy a front row seat at the happiest place in Hampstead.
The lights have renewed the strength of more people than just Linda. One of the Register’s favorite highlights occurred when they received a thank you card in the mail. A woman had just finished her chemo and was feeling unwell. Instead of going straight home, her daughter drove her through Lake Linda’s Christmas Lights. Even in the unpleasant state that chemotherapy causes, this woman found joy in the lights.
Recently, children have been leaving letters to Santa Claus when they tour the Lake. When they leave a return address, sometimes Santa actually tries to write them back!
Of course, there’s always a few bad apples trying to ruin the bunch. Thoughtless guests have tossed dirty diapers at the trailer, thrown their trash out the window, and dropped beer bottles and beer cans on the ground. Someone even took their car onto the field and did donuts, damaging several strands of lights.
This is the personal home and private property of the Register family. Every car that passes through the aches are guests and RCI + Topsail believes that every single person that enters the light display, should treat the entire space with appreciation and respect. We ask that if you see someone tossing out beer bottles, spinning donuts, or stealing decorations (yes, that has happened too!), you immediately report it to law enforcement.
Other locals have taken exceptional steps in the opposite direction. One local woman, Tori Evans, took it upon herself to send them annual thank you notes. This year, she decided engage others in the community who love the display, passing around a large card at her gym and in her neighborhood.
Follow them on Facebook
Sure, you can follow their Facebook page, Lake Linda’s Christmas Lights. But as usual, Mike went the extra mile and created a group page, Surf City-Hampstead Christmas Lights. You are encouraged to share where you find any beautiful Christmas light displays in the area, not just Lake Linda’s Christmas Lights.
Head on over to enjoy the light display tonight! We’re not your mama, but we think it’s only right to politely remind the general public to observe these kind practices while enjoying Lake Linda’s Christmas Lights:
- Respect the gift.
This is the light display of a private family on their private property. All extras – Santa Claus, cookies, replying to children’s letters – those are all extra things they do on their own time and with volunteers. There aren’t schedules for it or timelines. Sometimes they get to things, sometimes they don’t. We suggest that instead of messaging them to ask when Santa is coming, you simply pay attention to their Facebook page and enjoy what you get!
- Take your time.
If you’re in a hurry, save it for another day. This display should be enjoyed at snails pace.
- Lights off
Bright lights in the rearview mirror of the car in front of you is just annoying. Turn off your lights, but don’t forget to turn them back on when you exit!
- Stroll around and take pictures
Park the car off to the side and get out to take pictures in the sleigh. Walk through the green arches at the front side of the pond. There’s more walk through areas in the front yard.
- Let them know your gratitude
Sharing the light display with the community is an act of selfless kindness. At RCI + Topsail, we think that deserves recognition. Take a note from local Tori Evans, and send them a card or a token of your appreciation. Tell them on their FB group what the lights mean to you.
- Call the cops
If someone is littering, spinning donuts, stealing light displays, or any other unlawful or unsafe behaviors., please help us secure the sanctity of this generous gift and inform law enforcement. Let’s keep this place safe and intact!
- Pass it on
Keep the Christmas spirit going!
Pay for someone’s coffee.
Send a card to your elderly neighbor.
Allow other cars to merge during rush hour, even if you’re in a hurry.
Adopt a family impacted by the hurricane.
Pay off a stranger’s layaway.
Donate to Share the Table.
Bake cookies for someone in your neighborhood.
Send a special thank you to your child’s teacher, youth group leader, Scout leader, etc.
Babysit for that mom with a deployed husband.
Heck, babysit for ANY mom for free.
Teach your children about the real meaning of Christmas.
Show them what generosity looks like in action