“Winner: Martel Family’s Christmas Wonderland.” That is the headline on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” website announcing that the popular Hamilton holiday attraction — now in its 33rd year — won the nationally broadcast television show’s top prize of $50,000.
The award was announced on December 16, when the nation got an eyeful of Martel’s small suburban lot brimming with approximately 100,000 lights and hundreds of glowing figures and inflatables.
Now in its eighth season, the show “takes viewers across the nation to meet four families competing for a grand prize by decorating their homes to the extreme with synchronized lights that dazzle passersby and turn neighborhoods into a spectacular visual treat,” say press materials.
In the segment taped last year, designer and show host Taniya Nayak accompanies light master Bob Martel on a tour of the ever-evolving work-in-progress involving several generations of Martels.
“I had two Italian uncles who decorated with lights and figures on South Broad Street in Trenton and in Ewing in the 1960s,” says Martel in a past U.S. 1 interview. “I used to get a kick out of it. You know, it grows on you. And I said, ‘If I ever did this, I’d overkill.’”
And while the display gets brighter and flashier each season, a set of plywood choir boys painted more than 50 years ago by one of the uncles connects it to its roots and spirit.
Martel says the display that starts at Thanksgiving and continues to January 1 is “all about community” and attracts an estimated 10,000 visitors annually.
With a show-must-go-on attitude during the pandemic, Martel’s Christmas Wonderland is open for both drive-by gawking and walk-through gazing.
And while the display features a sign of our times, a COVID-19 related “Enter at Your Own Risk” warning, it certainly offers people the opportunity to visit one of the nation’s bonafide bright spots during this unusual holiday season.
Martel’s Christmas Wonderland, 21 Phillips Avenue, Hamilton. Hours: Mondays and Tuesdays, 5:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesdays, 5 to 7:30 p.m., Thursdays, 5:30 to 9 p.m., and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 5 to 10 p.m. to January 1. Free.