Friday, December 10, 2010

Nortonlights Returns to Wells, Makes Dreams Come True

By Molly McCoy
Staff Columnist
What began as a sibling rivalry in 2006 has escalated to remarkable proportions. This year, the aptly named “Nortonlights” is returning to Wells for another season, and the Norton family is thrilled to share the holiday magic right outside their door.
Each year, Stan and his family (wife, Melissa, and two sons) decorate their yard for the holidays. Now, we’ve all started seeing the satiric holiday commercials for one product or another, each playing on the classic neighborly competition for the most decorated house. Take those commercials and turn them up a notch…or ten.
As you head off to the Norton’s home in Wells, prepare yourself for the real deal. According to Stan, approximately 34,000 lights illuminate their yard, and passersby can take in a choreographed music and light show lasting just over ten minutes and featuring a variety of Christmas music favorites.
“Last year’s song was the fireworks song from Epcot. This year, we found one song early, actually another Disney one, ‘Illuminations.’ We kind of went with that,” says Stan.
The song they focused on was shorter than last year’s, allowing them to include “Everybody Loves Christmas” by Eddie Money, The Carpenters rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Wizards of Winter” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and another Disney classic, “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
“‘Wizards of Winter’ is one of my father-in-law’s favorite Christmas songs, so we included that as sort of a tribute to him. He’s helped out a lot with setting everything up,” says Stan. “The second Disney song is in honor of our partnership with the Make A Wish Foundation.”
Every year since its beginning, Nortonlights has worked to benefit a local cause. The first year they did an animated show, the Nortons collected cans for the St. Mary’s food bank right here in Wells. Last year, the Nortons expanded to a Halloween show and can drive, dubbed “Operation: Scare ‘n Share.”
“We didn’t want to do two can drives back-to-back,” says Stan. “We wanted to have a bigger impact in the community and do something different.”
They found a partner in the Make A Wish Foundation of Maine. Working at the Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire, Stan was familiar with the organization because of their presence at the base, often granting wishes to aspiring pilots and firefighters. “They’re a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful group of people that work down there. It just seemed like the perfect fit,” says Stan, glowing about the work that this organization is able to do. Last year, Nortonlights raised just over $6,000 for the Foundation, making them official “Wishmakers” for Make A Wish of Maine, and inspiring them to give again.
You can find an official cash donation box on the Norton’s property when you come to view the show, and Stan even makes “Stanta” rounds to visit cars, collecting donations on those colder nights. “You can stay in your car where it’s warm,” says Stan, laughing, “and you’re still able to give.”
While he might miss some cars on slower nights, Stan remains outside from 5 p.m. until the show ends on busy Friday and Saturday nights, welcoming people, collecting donations, and handing out candy canes.
“There was an hour-long wait [to see the show] at one point last year,” Stan recalls.
This year, the Nortons are estimating about 3,000 to 3,500 people will view their decorated home over the course of its December – January run. “That’s what we’re figuring for candy canes, anyway,” says Stan. The Nortons stop collecting Make A Wish donations on December 31, and find out soon after whose wish they are granting.
To view this spectacular show, simply visit the Norton’s home at 213 Canterbury Road in Wells, Maine, tune your car radio to 88.9FM, and wait for the next performance in the loop to begin. Sometimes Stan puts out speakers for his walking guests, but he comments, “They’re more for me, so I know where we’re at in the show.”
Anything else? As my interview ended, Stan wanted to make one thing very clear: “I just want to make sure that everyone is courteous to my neighbors. They are a wonderful group of people and they put up with a lot with the shows I do.” Stan asks that visitors drive carefully and keep one lane of the street open for traffic at all times, so his kind and patient neighbors can get in and out. “They pull their blinds, but it’s because they can’t see their TVs!” remarks Stan. “When the show starts, they can actually just turn on their radios and sit in their windows. They get a front row seat!”
For more information, directions, and to view a video of last year’s show, visit
Photo caption: Stan Norton and his family present “Nortonlights,” a choreographed holiday light show on the Norton’s front lawn in Wells. Last year’s light show raised just over $6,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation of Maine. (Courtesy photo)