Maybe it was the handmade, smoke-blowing dinosaur. Or the UFO. Or Darth Vader peering between the otherwise cheerful holiday creatures.
All of the whimsical elements found in Raleigh’s “Happyland Christmas Lights” wowed judge Carter Oosterhouse enough to win ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” finale Monday night. The display, at the corner of Huntingwood Drive and Penny Road, is one of two Triangle displays to be featured on the reality show this season – and win.
“It was out of this world,” Oosterhouse said on Monday’s show about Happyland. “There couldn’t be a better name. You are happy when you are there.”
The Moore family beat out over-the-top displays in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania to win the trophy shaped like a Christmas light bulb.
“My phone, my email, my yard are getting blown up,” Bobby Moore said by phone Tuesday morning, as he received congratulations from someone in his yard. “I’m loving it, I really am.”
Moore said he and his family knew they would win before the show aired. Oosterhouse had genuinely surprised them by showing up at their house with the trophy about three weeks after the initial shoot, but they were sworn to secrecy about the outcome. Monday night, the family held a watch party with about 40 friends.
“The house went nuts,” Moore said. “Absolutely crazy.”
On the show, Oosterhouse praised the display’s “randomness” and the mix of traditional displays to go along with the creative, nontraditional elements, such as the hand-crafted animated dragon.
“You had so many pieces that usually don’t go with Christmas, but you somehow made it work,” he said.
The display contains decorations that go back decades. Bobby Moore’s grandfather, Robert Moore Sr., used to build the floats for Raleigh’s Christmas parade. Bobby Moore’s father, Robert Moore Jr., inherited many of the decorations used on those floats, with many restored and placed on the family’s lawn. Each Christmas, Bobby’s father took the family to see a particularly festive house off New Bern Avenue. When those lights were ready to be given away, Bobby Moore snatched them up.
On Monday’s episode, Moore and his wife, Jan, greeted Oosterhouse and gave him a tour of Happyland, lovingly pointing out details of a fire truck, Santa on a missile and a Tar Heel painted pink.
“Some of this stuff has nothing to do with Christmas but has a lot to do with fun,” he said, wearing a Team Happyland shirt like other family members and friends.
“Welcome to our traditional Christmas with a little twist,” said Moore, 62. “You won’t see this anywhere else in America.”
It takes nearly a month to get the thousands of lights, figurines and inflatables in place. Moore said the display has been operating at its current scale for about 12 years. But this season has been different.
Moore typically puts up the first pieces of the display the day after Halloween and tries to finish by Thanksgiving. But the TV show’s production schedule meant Moore’s decorations had to be expedited, and the house needed to start looking like Christmas in September.
A Wake Forest family’s display, “Piper Lights,” was featured in the premiere Dec. 5. Its sprawling display, which features a train ride and a candy store, was declared the episode’s winner.
Glenda Leggett runs Piper Lights with her parents, Shirley and Jesse Piper, and her brother, Linwood Piper. There’s a drive-through, a train ride and a candy store.
“Our displays tell stories,” Leggett said. “I think that’s really what probably captured the judges’ attention.”
Happyland’s win is the third by a North Carolina family on the show, joining Piper Lights and a Clayton family’s display that won in 2014.
Moore said this will be the last year he decorates his house on such a scale. He plans to hand most of his lights and figurines over to his son, Robby Moore, who lives about three miles away.
As for the $50,000 in prize money, Moore said he plans to send his grandchildren on a Disney vacation, since it was partly for them that he agreed to appear on the show in the first place.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Happyland Christmas Lights display is on Huntington Drive.
See the lights
▪ Happyland Christmas Lights is at 5504 Huntingwood Drive, Raleigh, at the intersection with Penny Road. There are thousands of lights, inflatable characters and homemade wooden displays. The lights are on through Jan. 6. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 6:30 to 10 p.m., weather permitting. Lights won’t be turned on in the rain. Go to the Happyland Christmas Lights Facebook page for updates.
▪ Piper Lights at 5725 Fixit Shop Road, Wake Forest, features a drive-through display, a train ride, old-fashioned candy store and Santa. The lights are on daily until Jan. 6. Hours are Sunday to Thursday, 5:30 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Santa is there Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Go to facebook.com/piperlights/ for updates.