It all started with a mobile home out in the country 26 years ago - a few lights around a door and a window and strung along a deck.
Years passed and the lights grew, and before long Joe Blackwell's lights on Billy Wilson Road, just off S.C. 5 between York and Rock Hill, looked like the glow of a tiny town in a place where there was no town.
Tens of thousands of lights turned into more than 100,000 lights, and three nativity scenes in front of his house, and his momma's house, and the mobile home in between where he used to live.
There were so many lit-up deer it looked like hunting season. Polar bears and gingerbread houses and arches and Santas and carolers and enough wise men to fill a smarty-pants college or management meeting.
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"You'd see buses and church vans and people lined up down the road to see it," Blackwell said. "It would remind you of a part of your heart when you were a kid - the thrill of Christmas.
"The kids would have their faces up against the car windows. You could see the smiles."
By last year, Blackwell had almost 200,000 lights on all these dozens of displays. It took him six weeks to get it all set up right, and fix the electrical cords and circuits right.
But now, at 55, with six heart attacks and three strokes behind him, Blackwell has put up his last huge Christmas display. This year, some of the lights didn't even make it out of the back shed.
"We made him promise this is the last one," said Bonnie Blackwell, Joe's wife of 33 years. "It is just too much work."
But the lights have been a labor of love on Billy Wilson Road, where down the street for decades another family, the Carrolls, also have had a huge display.
"My father never did it for himself," said Blackwell's grown daughter, Jennifer. "He put up all those lights and went through the expense and the work because he knew that people looked forward to it.
"He spent most of the year getting ready, buying more stuff."
Blackwell, disabled after working for years with a roof truss company, would hunt for Christmas lights and displays that others no longer wanted, then fix them up or rewire lights or whatever had to get done.
"I found most of this stuff at garage sales and yard sales, castoffs that I fixed up," Blackwell said. "Every year I would add more and more."
People would show up and gawk, taking pictures or shooting videos. Some visitors would bring cookies to Blackwell to show their thanks. People who moved away would come back while visiting family.
Bonnie and Joe Blackwell would look at the electricity bill and then close their eyes hoping it would disappear. But the Blackwells would soldier on with their lights, anyway.
They could not disappoint all those people lined up in front of their house.
And each year for the past quarter-century, strangers would come up to Blackwell at the store or at the gas station - wherever he might be - and ask, "Are you gonna put out your lights this year?"
And Blackwell - from underneath his brush cut and moustache, a tough-looking character with a tender heart - would say, "Yes, come on by."
But this year is it for Blackwell. All the lights that are going to go up are up, and the effort and maintenance and "making them all just right" took weeks.
"My health is not good," he said, and he is tired.
Still, he hopes all those families come by to see his lights one last time this season, until he takes them down the day after New Year's Day.
"It was all worth it," Blackwell said, "because it seemed like I brought a little joy into the world all these Christmases.
"This world can use it."
Want to go?
What: Joe Blackwell's Christmas light display
Where: Billy Wilson Road, just south of S.C. 5, between York and Rock Hill
When: Sundown-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; sundown-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday