Homeowner's display now part of Speedway

Dec. 20, 2012 @ 05:00 PM

 When Mike Stanford first began installing Christmas lights outside of his south Charlotte home, he never imagined the day his homemade creations would become part of Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of the nation’s largest holiday light shows.

Visiting Stanford’s display, known for more than a decade as Mammoth Christmas, became a tradition for many families, attracting more than 20,000 people each year.

“I had 22,000 people in front of my house in 2010,” Stanford recalled. “I used to lean on the mailbox across the street and listen to the kids laugh and see them smile as they rode by.”

 The animated displays, which Stanford spent hundreds of hours building by hand, eventually got so much attention he had to shut them down out of respect for his neighbors.

 “The venue was completely wrong,” he said. “It’s just not fair to my neighbors to put that kind of burden on them.”

 After hearing about Stanford’s display, officials from Charlotte Motor Speedway reached out about a partnership to reignite the Mammoth Christmas spark. This year, Speedway Christmas visitors can watch penguins soar around a roller coaster on Stanford’s Frigid Flyer display, see an animated airplane piloted by penguins or watch them fall from the sky on Polar Plunge.

His animated displays are prominently located in the middle of the Christmas Village, which also features a petting zoo, Festival of Trees, photos with Santa, food vendors and more.

 For Stanford, Speedway Christmas is the perfect place to showcase his passion for the holidays and his one-of-a-kind custom creations.

 “I’d been looking for a place for a place for it to go,” he said of his collection. “The speedway has been really nice. People are really enjoying it. I’m seeing little kids come up to the fence and dance, and yell ‘look, penguins!’

“It’s not about trying to have the most lights or the coolest display. It’s more about making that 5-year-old’s eyes light up in wonder. It just works for me.”

 Operating hours for Speedway Christmas will be 6 to 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 30, excluding Christmas Day. Tickets are available online or at the gate nightly during event hours for drive-up traffic. Admission is $20 per car up to eight people. Guests can get $4 off admission by bringing a Coca-Cola product. Group packages are also available.

 The Coca-Cola Family Ice Rink, sponsored by New Life 91.9FM and operated by Extreme Ice Center, will be open daily through mid-January, excluding Christmas Day. Admission is $12, which includes skate rentals. Visitors get $2 off if they bring a Coca-Cola product. For information about group lessons or private events at the rink, call Extreme Ice Center at 704-882-1830.