The Christmas season is alive and well at Joey Conway's home thanks to his festive collection of lights, figures and decorations that adorn the front yard and driveway of 265 Maple Valley Road.
Joey, 17, is a Coventry High School senior, who began helping his dad create the winter wonderland as soon as he could climb a ladder, and in recent years has taken over the display with the help of his younger brother, Matt. The Conway Christmas Lights Extravaganza was officially lit for the 2012 season on Thanksgiving night and has already drawn quite a crowd.
This year's display contains 32,000 lights that blink in time with Christmas tunes - up 5,000 from last year when Joey won radio station Lite Rock 105's Christmas Light Contest. Dozens of vintage yard figurines, including Mr. and Mrs. Claus, teddy bear soldiers, candles and more are arranged across the property along with more modern additions like seesawing penguins and caroling Disney characters. An arrangement of lights surrounded by angels reads; "In Loving Memory of Grammy", marking its dedication to Joey and Matt's grandmother who passed away in January 2011.
This is the third year that Joey has used his display to collect nonperishable food items for the Coventry Community Food Bank, and he will have a donation area set up on the nights of Dec. 7, 14 and 21 for the cause, as well as free hot chocolate and cookies for guests who donate.
"I collected 350 nonperishables and 200 juice boxes last year, so my goal is to double those numbers this time," he said.
Apart from the food bank collection, Joey is also collecting donations for The Tomorrow Fund each night - an idea that came to him as he was driving by Hasbro Children's Hospital on his way to Providence Place Mall.
"I sent an e-mail to The Tomorrow Fund and we organized this collection," he explained. "They gave me five collection cans and after three nights they were full. This is the first year, so whatever I can raise will be great, but my goal will be to double that next year."
Visitors to the spectacle can drive up the length of the Conway's driveway with their car radios tuned to a posted station to enjoy seasonal songs while they circle around to view all there is to offer. They are also invited to get out, take pictures and warm up around an outdoor fire pit. When he isn't working at Walgreens or Holiday Impressions where he decorates the yards of others for Christmas, Joey can usually be found outside greeting guests, collecting donations or directing traffic.
"There have been nights when we've had a traffic jam in the driveway," he said.
"I remember the first time I looked out our window and saw an entire family taking pictures on the lawn," said Matt, a CHS sophomore. "It's cool that they enjoy it so much."
"The reactions from kids are the best," agreed Joey. "We have kids that yell 'Christmas Town is back!' when they see the lights. I like hearing that."
Matt explained that they have met families from across Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut who have come to view the display, as well as a family from Maine.
Though Joey will graduate from high school in June, he plans to attend college locally and will continue to create the Conway Christmas Lights Extravaganza for his visitors.
"I work on this year round, starting again in January for the next year," he said. "It's my hobby now, but I definitely want to expand it and have my own company doing this someday."
The display will be lit from 4:30 p.m. to approximately 10 p.m. each night until New Year's Eve. Click here to check out the Conway Christmas Lights Extravaganza on Facebook.