SouthWood couple’s patriotic holiday display wins national contest

The home of Derek and Courtney Whitis in SouthWood, which has been drawing spectators to its colorful and musical light display for weeks, has won the Good Morning America Big Bright Holiday Lights showdown contest.
Selected from three national finalists, the best house was determined by votes on the show’s mobile app and Facebook page.
Derek and Courtney Whitis light their SouthWood home every holiday season.
This year, they’ve outdone themselves.
Their patriotic display in the 3600 block of Mossy Creek Lane has more than 100,000 LED lights and is the highlight of the neighborhood. Thursday evening, a steady stream of cars rolled slowly by to appreciate the animated light and sound show.
“We turned the lights on Tuesday and had more than 50 people came out to look at it all that night,” Courtney Whitis said. The lights go on at 6:15 p.m. every night and run to 11 p.m.
This year’s display includes more than three times the bulbs they normally put on the house for the holiday season. The visual display is accompanied by a four-minute soundtrack that plays a portion of the song for each branch of the military — low volume through loudspeakers and available to drivers on a low-power radio frequency.
The whole thing took months of planning and about four weeks of installation with heavy machinery. While the display will likely send the Whitis family’s electric bill sky high, Courtney Whitis says that the cost of the display is “nothing in comparison to what the troops do every day for our freedom.”
The neighbors love the display and it has heightened the patriotic spirit on the street.
Becca Hale, who lives near the Whitis’ home, said many neighbors are planning to light their homes as well ­— although not nearly to the level of the Whits display.
“We did this just to pay tribute to those who have served, are serving and will serve in the military protecting our freedom,” Courtney Whitis said.
The Whitises seek to raise awareness and money for the Semper Fi Fund, which provides assistance for wounded soldiers in their recovery process. Those who would like to donate can visit
story by: Desiree Stennett

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