MERIDEN — For 18 years, putting up a huge display of blue lights along the Chamberlain Highway became an annual holiday tradition, but challenges in 2020 almost brought the tradition to an end.
After seeing the incredible response from the community, the light display will instead help residents celebrate the new year.
Weather conditions and the pandemic almost cause the eye-catching blue light display in front of 172 Chamberlain Highway to be totally cancelled this winter.
"I would get feedback from the people honking their horns and everything as we were putting them up. It's been many, many years of enjoying the lights and it even became a landmark," said August Miller, 73, describing the annual project as a "labor of love".
Miller’s daughter in-law, Patricia Ann-Miller, said she only became aware of the light display’s popularity after scrolling through social media and finding a flood of comments wondering about its absence.
In the past, Miller said he and another person, usually a tenant of his, typically handled putting up the lights.
"It's just blowing us away as a family because we thought this was just 'Oh, it's Papa's fun blue lights.’ We just didn't know so many looked forward to it. It's kind of crazy," said Ann-Miller.
Ebony Shyntel, whose post caught Ann-Miller’s attention, said seeing the blue lights has been a staple of the holiday season for her.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know that was going to happen,” said Shynet. “But it’s such a beautiful display. It warms my heart to drive by and see it.”
A Meriden resident for 13 years, she also remembers when the project was just a small scale version of its current iteration.
Since Miller began his passion project in 2002, the blue lights have grown to encompass 28,000 bulbs, strung across several trees running across six properties in one dazzling display. It hasn't always been so large. As the years went by, the trees he planted in his front yard grew and thus gave him more space to decorate.
He chose blue because of its "ethereal aesthetic.” Shynet said the blue had a “calming” effect that she found endearing.
To help with the cost, Patricia Ann-Miller and other family members organized a GoFundMe page. Meeting more than half its goal of $500 during the day the fundraiser was posted, she added it was now an "obligation" to uphold the tradition.
With the pandemic forcing all kinds of changes, Miller added this year will proceed differently, with one section shining at a time rather than all at once. Despite being a bit disappointed at this, he said it nonetheless was done to give people hope after such a tumultuous year.
Once they're set up, he said he intends to keep them up for almost two months. He added the social media comments further inspired him to finish the display.
He said he was hoping to have it completed by this weekend.
People can donate to help with the costs at https://www.gofundme.com/f/meriden-blue-lights