NORMAN — An Oklahoma family's enormous efforts toward spreading Christmas cheer will be on a national stage at 8 p.m. Monday on ABC's “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”
The Downs Family Christmas Light Ministry was chosen as one of 20 homes in the country to be featured on the show. Each episode, four homes are pitted against each other and a design star, Sabrina Soto in this case, chooses the winner.
If the Downs family's efforts result in a win, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma will be the real winner and $50,000 richer. That's in addition to the more than 625,000 meals the food bank has provided through donations from the family's light show during the past six years.
“We have a very giving community,” Kim Downs said.
The couple, who will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in January. They call the show a ministry for a couple of reasons.
“We call it a ministry because it definitely has a message. I mean, Christmas is about Christ, and you definitely see that in this display,” Chuck Downs said.
Another reason they call it a ministry is for the feedback they've received from visitors.
One Dallas family calls the display “Pop's lights” in honor of their dearly departed grandfather who loved the lights so much during his final years, he talked about them a lot and frequently watched a homemade video of the show.
One man wrote the Downs family to thank them for helping bring him out of suicidal depression. He would sit and watch the light show for hours each night and eventually, his perspective on life changed.
“For every story we hear like that, we know there are probably at least five others that we don't hear,” Kim Downs said.
Visitors can tune in the music of the 34-minute show on their car radios and can park in the family's front yard acreage, like at a drive-in movie, for as long as they wish.
A horseshoe driveway directs visitors toward the exit, where a donation site is set up.
The family has seven large bins from the food bank, nearly filled already with edible donations.
On the Downs Family Christmas Light Ministry's website,
downsfamilychristmas.com, this notice was posted Sunday: “The Downs Family Christmas Light Ministry is CLOSED due to heavy ice and excessive mud for Sunday, December 22nd. We are working hard to repair the damage and get back to a running condition. Stay tuned to this site, or our Facebook page for weather updates and the status of the show.”