OCEAN COUNTY – The holiday season is all about decorating our homes, attending festive parties and spending time with the ones you love. Although many of these holiday traditions have had to be set aside due to COVID-19, local residents are sharing the holiday spirit by going above and beyond on Christmas decorations.
The Ferone family in Toms River have been spreading holiday cheer for about seven years now. Back in 2013, Harry, Joe and Penny of the Ferone family visited Disney World to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights show. The family saw how much joy and happiness the show gave everyone, including themselves, and decided to create their own show at home.
“We got to work right away researching the magical world of Christmas light displays and how to run our own,” Rachael Martingano, who runs all the social media pages, stated. “Each year we challenge ourselves to make the show even better than last year. Planning for our shows starts in July. We begin to set up all our lights in the first week of September.”
The family also does a light display for Halloween, which this year ran from October 16 through October 31. On November 1, the whole team works together to take down the Halloween decor and swiftly put together the Christmas lights up along with decorating four of their neighbor’s houses just in time for Christmas.
“Our team is made up of Harry Ferone, who is a part of every aspect of the light show, from planning, financing, programming, setting up, guest engagement, breakdown, and so much more,” Rachael said. “Joe Ferone, our main programmer for Christmas, each three minute song takes him anywhere from 20 to 30 hours of programming. He also helps with set up and breakdown. I run all the social media pages and I also am the main programmer for Halloween and help with set up and break down. My brother Brian Martingano helps with setup and breakdown. Penny Ferone decorates the inside of our house. She sets up a village, our collection of Santas, and of course, our inside lights. Decorating our house has become a tradition for us.”
The Ferone Family Christmas Light Show is now open for the public to watch. Their shows run Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. through December 27. The drive-up show is located at 184 Yellowbank Rd. in Toms River and is completely free.
This year, the family is collecting donations for Children’s Hospital of Toms River. Last year they raised over $3,000 and this year they are aiming high with the hope of raising $5,000.
“Watching people’s faces light up with joy as they watch our show makes the hours of work worth it,” Rachael said.
Due to COVID, the family asks that if you get out of your car, to wear a mask and social distance from other families. Visitors are also more than welcome to watch the light show from the comfort of your car and tune into FM 88.1 to hear the music.
The 218 Stage Rd. Winter Wonderland is another huge light show created by a local resident from Little Egg Harbor Township.
Jay Zimmerman, who is a Great Bay EMS captain, created the 218 Stage Rd. Winter Wonderland show in hopes that the holiday spirit isn’t swept away due to COVID-19.
“COVID has taken so much from us,” Zimmerman said. “Weddings, events, birthday parties, relationships with friends and family, and while it may have been completely necessary, it’s still rather sad and definitely frustrating. I basically decided COVID isn’t taking the spirit of Christmas away, at least not in Little Egg Harbor.”
Zimmerman’s Winter Wonderland production is a drive thru show that extends across eight different themed areas at his home in Little Egg. Zimmerman has had help from other local residents, such as Josh Van Dyke as production manager, Dante Rinaldi handling IT and marketing, and Ryan Zielinski and Chad Astemborski heading up construction and layout.
“The goal is to provide a completely free winter wonderland Christmas production and, hopefully, even if just for 10 minutes, bring a sense of normalcy and excitement back to the kids, especially,” Zimmerman stated. “Several of us have some film and production background, so we’re going to try and make it as lifelike as possible, if time allows.”
The Stage Rd. Winter Wonderland is now open for everyone to enjoy. The free show runs daily from 6 to 10 p.m. until December 30 and is located at 218 Stage Rd. in Little Egg Harbor Township.