When Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, blankets his house with Christmas lights in the classic film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” it doesn’t hold a twinkle to the display Joe and Susan Lewis, with teens Joey and Julia, stage in central Florida.
For 19 years, the Lewis family has turned their Mount Dora Boating Center and Marina into a symbol of the spirit of Christmas joy by installing some 1.1 million lights (60,000 added this year) to create a major attraction for their community.
This year, when the Lewis family opened the gates for “light up night” (on Nov. 28), more than 2,000 guests poured in to tour all the displays. While the view from the road or out on the water is spectacular every night, the Lewis family opens the grounds to all visitors for eight evenings, including Christmas Eve and Christmas night, before its lights-out on Jan. 10. This year, the grounds will be open until 10 p.m. to accommodate the crowds.
But one of my favorite views isn’t on the property at all. It’s looking in from out on the lake. The reflection on the water of the marina’s covered wells is unique. And Joe quips the hundreds of sets of white LED lights added along the tops of every building this year “is as close to snow-covered rooftops as we’ll ever get in Florida.”
There are many new displays this year, but Santa Claus in his new 24-foot cruiser will likely top the list of favorites. “Santa is pulling Zane, our insane wakeboarding elf,” Joe says, “and he’s wearing the proper PFD, of course. You could say it’s an illustration of what we love to do around here the other 300 days of the year.”
For Joe, there’s no end in sight to adding more displays. He’s already revealed his plans for adding Mrs. Claus riding on her PWC and Rudolph, with the rest of his reindeer team, will be aboard a pontoon pulling the Abominable Snowman on a tube.
Giving back to their community is right in character for Joe and his family. But it doesn’t end there. He also gives back in many ways to the marine industry. He is chairman of the industry’s Grow Boating Initiative and its iconic Discover Boating national program; he is also vice chairman of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas; he serves on the marketing committee of the industry’s Recreational Boating Leadership Conference; and he is the current president of the Marine Industry Association of Central Florida.
So, enjoy the accompanying photos from Mount Dora . . . and a very Merry Christmas to each of you who take time to regularly read Dealer Outlook.