I’ve talked about this here before, but every year, I’m reminded afresh that one of the most wonderful and magical Christmas decorations I’ve ever encountered is something that happens right here in my own neighborhood!
About twenty years ago, one of our neighbors rigged up a new decoration in their yard – a ball of chicken wire with strands of lights wound around it and hung high in one of the many large old oak trees in the area. Then they did another and another. Others were so intrigued by the effect that they started putting up tree balls as well.
Before long the entire short street in this very suburban area was festooned with the balls, and surrounding roads began to pick up the idea as well. Now, our entire neighborhood, Sunset Hills, in Greensboro, North Carolina, has become famous for the display.
The effect is magical. In the darkness, the balls appear to float high in the air, becoming giant, colorful baubles surrounding you. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to photograph them. Capturing them in a 2D medium flattens out the effect and without a tripod, the balls tend to come out smeared and blurry-looking. Even professionals have thrown up their hands in despair when trying to reproduce the beauty of them.
Getting the balls high in the trees is a challenge. We use a slingshot to send a weight with cord attached high into the tree and over a branch. Others use fishing rods, tennis balls, and potato guns. We don’t do as many as some others, but we do manage to hang ours pretty high in the trees.
People drive in from all over the city and outside to see the display, which does lead t one downside: traffic jams in the neighborhood. For the last few weeks in December, it can be hard to drive around the area. Just getting our car out of the driveway can take a while Occasionally traffic gets so backed up it leads to gridlock.
But the neighborhood makes an effort to turn the volume of a traffic into a positive thing for the entire city. There are several stations set up for collection of food donations, which have provided hundreds of pounds of canned and non-perishable stock for a local food bank. An event called Running of the Balls https://www.therunningoftheballs.com/ also provides meals for a food bank.
I recently found this drone footage of the area with the balls:
I’ve tried to see if I could pick out my house, but I can’t. Still, I feel sure that a few of those hundreds of balls showing in the video are ours.