1. How long has the Bluffton Blaze of Lights been happening?
It's funny you ask that because I was wondering about that and found a sign with the original date. Bluffton started doing this in 1986, so this is our 27th year. It really started out in the country with the Reams. The three white deer were the first display in the 1930s. Dorothy Ream would come up with the idea and have her husband, Harry Ream, cut them out and then she'd paint them. She was an art teacher. As they got older, they couldn't keep up with it, and in the mid-80s asked Bluffton to take it over. That's how Bluffton started doing the display.
2. What is your role in this?
I'm the cultural affairs committee chairperson, and I've been in charge the last three years. I've been on the committee for 10 to 12 years. I've been painting and touching up the displays for about 20 years.
3. How long are the decorations up each year?
The lights go on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and they stay on until Jan. 31. During that time, they are on from dusk until 11 p.m.
4. How long does this take to put up?
We always start the first week of November and get the lights strung in the trees. The second week of November, we get the displays set up. Then the electrician comes to electrify things and make sure everything turns on. That takes a good, solid two weeks. Some years, if the weather is really bad, we have to hold off, but that doesn't happen too often.
5. What's the worst weather you've had while putting up the displays?
One year, it started out raining and then it turned to sleet and then it turned to snow. It just got really cold. When the ground is cold, then it's hard to put the stakes in that secure the displays. The weather was perfect this year.
6. How many lights do you have up?
I honestly have no idea. We've tried to figure that out before, but we always lose count.
7. How many displays do you have and are they all original to the Reams?
We easily have over 100 displays, and every year we add something new. Some of those are just for that year because we have something special going on, and others are up permanently. There is a gold circle on all the original displays or replicas of the original ones that were at the Reams. We've had different people make the new ones. I've painted quite a few, and Janette Reineke, Karen Dukes and Geneva Rammel have also done quite a few.
8. How many volunteers does it take to get all this up?
Well, the Boy Scouts always help and usually there are about a dozen of them. The committee helps and there are five of us, and then whoever is willing to help out. It really varies year to year. Some years, there are up to 25 people, and others there are just five. It depends on the weather a lot
9. How many visitors do you get through here?
It's hard to have a specific number, but the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have a steady stream. We have buses that come through.
10. What's the most challenging part of all this?
Just getting people to volunteer, probably. It's a lot of hard work, so getting volunteers is probably the hardest thing. We do bribe them with food though. The Boy Scouts love that part.
11. Why does Bluffton continue to do this every year — it's a lot of work?
It's just so much fun. We have a really good time. The day we turn it all on, the Blaze, is always fun. It starts about 4:30 p.m. and then we have an ice sculptor who makes a big sculpture. We have a parade and Santa and entertainment. We always have food that night. It's just a great time.