Few traditions are as enduring as lighting homes and yards for Christmas. The first electric-light Christmas displays date to the 1880s, when an associate of inventor Thomas Edison installed holiday lights in New York. The tradition of celebratory winter lighting actually predates the birth of Christ, however.
In Missouri, many homeowners and entire communities now create elaborate lighting displays for the enjoyment of their neighbors and holiday travelers. Few private displays are more extensive than those constructed by Vicky and Bruce Latchford of Callao, in north-central Missouri.
Sixteen years ago, Bruce gave his wife a nativity scene for Christmas, and the couple placed it in their yard. Each year they added more holiday decorations. Now the display fills their property and includes nearly every imaginable holiday decoration, from illuminated deer to snowmen to Snow White figures to luminaries and a number of Santas, including a rocking St. Nick on the front porch and a singing jolly fellow who stands sentry at the Latchford’s barn.
The exhibit is intended as a walk-through attraction. Particularly popular with visitors are the mechanical workshops and other animated displays that once were part of a well-known annual holiday exhibit near Plevna. The Callao Christmas experience has expanded in recent years as neighbors have begun creating their own displays.
The Latchford’s holiday display is illuminated from dusk until 10 p.m. every evening from Thanksgiving until Jan. 1, weather permitting. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.
To locate the display, take Highway 36 until you reach the Callao exit, 9 miles west of Macon. Head north on Highway 3 and turn right at the first four-way stop. You can’t miss it.