No one does Christmas like Mount Dora. No one does holiday lights like Joe Lewis.
For the past 20 years, Joe and his crew of elves at Mount Dora Boating Center have created what is arguably the city's most impressive holiday display. This year the downtown marina boasts over one million lights.
Lewis has it down to a near science. Preparation begins in September, and the installation of all the illuminated decorations starts in October. After much anticipation by children and adults, the lights are turned on during the city's annual Light Up Mount Dora event and visited nightly throughout the holiday,
This year, the marina will feature an additional 100,000 lights, according to Lewis. Last year an enormous Frosty the Snowman and large, synchronized snowflakes mounted on the wall of the dry boat storage building were added.
"The lights are just inspiring and put you in the holiday mood," said Lewis when asked about his holiday labor of love. "Here in Florida we don't have seasonal cold weather, so we try to put up a few more lights than normal."
In 1989, Lewis and his wife Suzy purchased the marina which has 95 wet boat slips and another 140 dry slips. It wasn't long before the Lewis' growing tradition at home was moved to the marina.
"When my wife said we couldn't put them up at the house anymore, I said 'No problem, I'll come up with another place," mused Lewis.
With so many lights, something is bound to go wrong occasionally . One year, Lewis was decorating by himself on top of the tall dry storage building on a windy day. Much to his dismay, he discovered his ladder had been knocked to the ground by the wind. Lewis was then stuck alone on the roof and had to get creative to get down.
Lewis has removed any worries about a troublesome burned out bulb. A few years ago, the marina's display was upgraded to all LED lights for added vibrancy and durability.
Light up Mount Dora will be on November 26 and you can see the marina's light display at 148 Charles Avenue at the downtown lakefront. The lights are on every night through the holiday season. The marina can use assistance funding the display for future years. If you're interested in helping, click here.