When Whiteland officials decided to decorate their town hall and conduct a lighting ceremony this year, they had to purchase supplies and figure out how the display should be arranged.
Planning it all would require someone with the vision and skill to figure out how many lights will be needed and how to power them all properly.
So they found a local Christmas light prodigy to lend a hand. Payton Bohler, a 15-year-old rural Franklin resident, helped spearhead the town’s holiday lighting this year.
“We had this idea to do our own little holiday event, and we had a limited amount of time. Thinking about the best way to get everything accomplished, I thought it would be nice to incorporate the kids from the schools,” said Carmen Parker, a part-time employee for the town and organizer of the holiday lighting. “With Payton having his expertise, he was a great choice.”
Payton has been decorating his family’s home since he was 9, and has recently been asked to help with neighbors’ homes. Between the Whiteland town lights and upgrading his own house’s display, it’s been an eventful holiday season for Payton.
“It’s really exciting that I’m helping everyone and able to do all of this,” he said.
Parker, whose daughter is friends with Payton, was invited by the Bohler family to come out and see his holiday light display. She was impressed by his design and attention to detail, and since she was planning Whiteland’s holiday ceremony, she asked if he’d like to help the town with its lights.
“There is so much more we can do to engage our community and getting volunteers to help with this. I thought this would be a nice opportunity to engage someone who loves doing it,” Parker said.
Payton helped assess the buildings and trees that the town wanted to decorate, and worked with Parker to calculate the number of lights needed. Then he and a number of other youth volunteers worked with town employees to complete the decorating.
The Whiteland display was a new responsibility for Payton, added on top of his passion for decorating his own home. His parents started letting him help six or seven years ago with decorating.
What used to be about 7,500 lights has grown to include more than 22,000. The Bohler’s house and barn are decorated, with lights along the eaves and peaks of the roof, up pillars and forming Xs on the barn door.
The small chicken coop, where Payton keeps the 23 chickens he raises, is bathed in a festive white and multi-colored glow.
Lights are on the swingset and on nearly every tree around the yard, including the apple trees lining the long driveway. An illuminated Nativity scene is set up in the middle of the front yard.
“I love the lights. Over the years, if I’d see a dark spot, I’d make a note that that would have to go. So I’d get more lights for it,” he said.
Part of the challenge isn’t just hanging the lights, but figuring out how to power everything throughout the yard. Last year, the displays tripped the electrical breakers more than 30 times. So Payton borrowed more extension cords from neighbors to help ensure that their load is spread to more outlets.
“So far, everything has worked better,” Payton said.
Though his father, Pete Bohler, and other family members help, the Christmas lights are Payton’s show. He decorates nearly every room in the house, each one getting its own theme.
His bedroom is dominated by blue and other cool-toned light colors. His sister’s room is covered in purple lights. In the entrance to the home, a 9-foot-tall tree dominated in red greets visitors.
All of the decorations are special to Payton. But his favorite is a vintage silver aluminum tree, decked out in pink and pastel ornaments, that was passed down through his family from the 1950s.
As Payton’s light displays have grown, so has his reputation. He has started helping neighbors with their own lights, and was invited by a nearby homeowner, whose display on Rocklane Road features more than 50,000 lights, to help his set-up this year.
“That was a good opportunity, learning from him,” he said.
Even in the throes of holiday celebrating, Payton is already thinking about 2018’s display. He’d would like to add even more lights to the roof of their house, though that may require finding a larger ladder.
“I’d like to make the trees fuller with lights, too, so you can see them bigger,” he said.