Day 2: Nightly event raises charitable funds while making ag ‘cool’

12 days of Christmas… with a twist.

Day 2:  After interviewing Neil Messick two weeks ago for a Farmshine story about this deal running nightly at Messick’s Farm Equipment Dec. 4 through 28, we decided to check it out tonight with the grandchildren! Two thumbs up!

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Sneak peek in ‘tractor row’. Photo by Neil Messick

By Sherry Bunting, Dec. 4, 2015 Farmshine

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. — Whether or not a new tractor is under your Christmas tree, what farmer wouldn’t love to see a 30-tractor Christmas light show, and then some?

At Messick’s Farm Equipment in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County, Pa., 20 years of light displays along Route 283 gradually became more animated as Neil Messick, marketing and IT manager, and younger brothers Kevin and Lucas began collecting the things they might need to do something grand.

And grand it is. Since 2013, Messick’s, in conjunction with Kubota Tractor, has presented a massive animated Christmas light show set to music and viewable from their parking lot nightly between December 4 and 28.

Even better, the 20-minute program receives donations from viewers and has raised in its first two years a total $50,000 for charities that help local families.

“We obviously enjoy this, or we wouldn’t be doing it,” Neil said in a phone interview with Farmshine this week as the program is ready to kick off Friday. “What has been surprising is the sheer amount of donations. To raise $25,000 a year doing something we enjoy, just shows the giving spirit.”

While many of the visitors are local, it is surprising how far some will drive to see it. Last year’s inclement weather kept viewing traffic to 3500 cars and a dozen buses over the 24 days. Neil anticipates more will come this year, and hopes to raise $35,000 for charities.

Lights and technology are Neil’s “thing” while Kevin and Lucas work with the music and the sequencing.

“It’s something they work on at home at night,” says Neil. “We start in the summer and have the program planned three to four months in advance.”

An estimated 150 man hours of sequencing are involved and another 150 man hours of set up and tear-down. In addition, three to four staff members work nightly with parking, collecting donations and handing out flyers to cars, which can wait in line for up to two hours at the peak of the season.

New this year is the music (Sauniks Carol of the Bells), as well as the use of red-green-blue flood lights to mix the colors and make them more brilliant. Also new is a 44-foot air-operated tower that makes the giant Christmas tree and star move.

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The view from our windshield (wipers included). Four separate sets of carols by digitized orchestra. Great sound via channel 89.1 on the radio dial

Together, Kubota Tractor and Messick’s pay the cost of the display, which includes 30 lit-up Kubota tractors, many of them having animated parts to play in the show.

“This is the combination of everything we love. We enjoy Christmas time and the lights (and of course tractors). We combine these things to make agriculture cool and engage our community in this way,” Neil explained.

Viewed from the upper and lower parking lots, visitors set their car radios to channel 89.1 for the music with which the light show is synchronized.

Click here to see a video preview

The 20-minute display runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. during the first seven days Dec. 4 to 10 and from 6:30 to 10 p.m. from Dec 11 to 28. For more information on viewing, including a map, visit http://www.messicks.com/2015-light-show

Donations to support the charities are collected at the end of the show. 100% of donations go to support needs of local families through Habitat for Humanity, Community Cupboard of Elizabethtown, Paxton Ministries, Water Street Ministries and Mennonite Disaster Service.

To view what is arguably the largest tractor light display of its kind synchronized to Christmas music, enter the parking lot from Mertz Road off the Rheems/Elizabethtown exit of Rte. 283, and be prepared to wait. Lines can be 90 minutes in the 10-days before Christmas, with lighter crowds generally in the first week of the display.

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