This time of year, James Stevens gets into his 2001 Chevy Suburban, plugs into a power source and has a rolling Christmas display.
At night, it’s a sight to behold. At a distance, you can’t see the Suburban, just blinking, floating lights moving down the road.
He outlines the SUV with two strings of Christmas lights. The kids help him decorate it, and they love to ride in it. He’s been doing this since 2004, partly in honor of his father who died at Christmas years ago.
His niece, Debbie Gokey, 14, doesn’t care why he does it. She likes riding in it.
“Even if we go to the grocery store up the road, we get in the car, and he turns on the lights,” she said.
From inside, she sees the lights through the side mirrors.
“I love it every year. It’s Christmasy, and Christmas is my favorite.”
Stevens usually waits until dusk to plug in the lights, so people are most likely to see him after work driving around Gautier and Ocean Springs.
Recently, he made a trip to Wiggins. Anyone who saw floating, rolling lights on U.S. 49 can know now they weren’t imagining things.
Stevens enjoys the reactions — waving and honking, yelling approval, thumbs up, inquiries when he’s parked, and having cars pass him slowly so passengers can film his holiday-light display on their phones.
He said he tried it as a “hare-brained idea,” got a good response and has kept it up ever since. He installs the lights at Thanksgiving and takes them off after Christmas.
Stevens uses a power inverter through the cigarette lighter to power the strings, converting the car battery’s DC to household AC.
He has encountered Mississippi Highway Patrol cars, sheriff’s cars and local police but has not been pulled over, he said. A Moss Point patrol car was behind him for two miles last Tuesday when he took his son to Boy Scouts. So he’s assuming they’re OK with his display.
He makes sure the string at the top of the windshield is out of his view. It doesn’t distract his driving, he said. From inside, you can barely see the lights.
So it may be more about spreading Christmas cheer than receiving it. However, Steven loves it too, his niece says, even though he may not say so himself.