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Florida Guide > Disney Parks

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

At Disneyworld you will find the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, an amazing display of Christmas lights from mid November through to the first week January.

When I first heard about these lights I thought it was related to Sharon and Ossie Osborne! But hey no, it is a tradition that has nothing to do with this show biz family but rather a tradition that just grew!

The story goes that a little girl innocently asked her doting dad if they could have some Christmas lights. However, this simple request ended up in the US Supreme Court.

Jennings Osborne’s family celebrated Christmas but they never used to put lights up on their house in Fork Smith Arkansas. When Jennings married his wife, Mizzie, they continued to return to Jennings family home for Christmas until his father died in 1968.

Their daughter Breezy was born in 1980 and when she was six she asked her father if they could have some lights in their home in Little Rock Arkansas. He proudly agreed and put up 1, 000 little red lights. Each year Jennings would add to the collection which grew … and grew… and grew.

By 1993 there were over three million! It was rumoured that planes could see the display from over 80 miles away. The display included a suspended three dimension of the world which flashed ‘Peace on Earth’, a train with Mickey Mouse, the engineer, waving. People from all over the state came to view the house and wrote letters to Jennings of how much they enjoyed the spectacle. Film crews arrived from as far away as Japan and Australia to report back on the fantastic display. The reputation just escalated! When he ran out of room he bought the two houses either side of his house.

However Jennings neighbours could not understand the show, the enjoyment it gave and why people came from near and far to view it. They cited that it was a nuisance. This lawsuit went up to the Arkansas Supreme Court. To pacify his neighbours, Jennings reduced the length of time the lights were each week and organised off duty police to escort neighbours to and from their homes to try and eliminate their inconvenience.

However one family, after a long journey, arrived and were very disappointed to learn the lights had just gone off. Jennings felt sorry the children would not be able to see the lights and with compassion he decided to show them the display but this in turn meant he had to defy his court order. …. and ended up with $10, 000 fine. Jennings neighbours then used this example against him to shut down the display for good. It went as far as the US Supreme Court where it was rejected as not being unique enough.

At this point Jennings thought it would have to stop – that there would be no more Osborne lights. How wrong this thought was. In 1995 he was contacted by Disneyworld who wanted to bring his display to Florida and display them in the Disney Hollywood Studios Studio park. In 1995 The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights opened with 4 million lights and gone on to become Disneyworld’s 3rd largest attraction – it’s legend continuing to grow and evolve with lights synchronising, dancing and twirling to music.

The lights are situated by the Streets of America, where you are greeted by dazzling lights and find ‘snow’ falling in Florida. Previews are held before Thanksgiving but officially the display runs from Thanksgiving until the first week of the New Year.

A few figures about the display at Disney – 5 million lights, 32 miles of extension cables, 66 snow machines and 400 dimmers are used.

If you get a chance to visit Disneyworld at Holiday Time it is well worth it. The number of lights, colours just blow your mind away.

And the Jennings … ironically the Osborne’s have gone on to sponsor 32 displays in cities around Arkansas. Jennings is quoted as saying “It’s the greatest thing that has ever happened. Now millions get to see it. I get to share my gift with the world. ”

Author: Denise and Nigel Taylor (Villa link: click here)
Other articles by this author: click here

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Page added on: 27 September 2007
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