Lebanon County local Darrel Moyer has long had a passion for Christmas decorating, and he is now putting that passion to work at the National Christmas Center of Pennsylvania, where he got a job in July.

You may know Moyer from his elaborate Christmas displays. His 2020 display included over 30,000 lights, which some of which were synchronized to music, along with various other decorations.

Darrel Moyer’s 2020 Christmas display.

Moyer has been Christmas decorating for fun for years, but he now does it for a living as well.

Moyer and the National Christmas Center

The National Christmas Center – which is part of Stone Gables Estate, a Christian organization – collects and displays one of the largest collections of Christmas decorations and nativities, old and new, in the U.S.

Moyer’s interview at the center was unconventional. His friend Pastor Robert Howard set up an interview for him. Then he  visited the premises and was asked by the steward David Abel what he thought. His response, that he loved it. Moyer was then told he was hired.

“Mr. Abel knows that I love Christmas and he knows a little bit about my Christmas display,” said Moyer.

His experience and passion for the Christmas season, it would seem, spoke for themselves.

Through the summer and fall, Moyer worked with John Enterline, curator of the National Christmas Center, and Jim Morrison, the original owner of the National Christmas Center, and others at the center setting up displays at the interim location.

“Working there is just amazing, it’s incredible,” said Moyer. “I love being able to use my God-given talents with Christmas lighting and Christmas decorating here at the National Christmas Center.”

Moyer also played a role in the set up of the Christmas Light Drive-Thru, even working as the primary designer for one section of it.

The Herr’s Mill Covered Bridge decorated with thousands of Christmas Lights with the Harrisburg, Lincoln and Lancaster Railroad #331 decked out in lights and decorations on the other side of the covered bridge for the Christmas Light Drive Through on the Stone Gables Estate property. 

“We work together, and that’s the great part about it,” explained Moyer. “I get to share some of my ideas and give input into how things can be done and then I get to do them in the Christmas Center and in the drive-thru display.”

Now, both the center and the drive-thru are open for business. Both tours of the National Christmas Center Museum and the drive-through display are available Monday through Thursday until Dec. 30., as well as this Saturday.

Once the new year starts, Moyer and others at the center will get to work on improving and modifying the museum so that visitors next year can have a different experience.

“I work with an incredible team of people that make the drive-thru happen, and that make the National Christmas Center happen, too,” said Moyer. “I’m just a very small part in it. It is really neat and I look forward to seeing how things grow in the future to build upon Mr. Able’s vision.”

The center closed its doors in 2018 after 19 years in operation in Paradise and sought a buyer for the collection. Stone Gables Estate purchased the entire collection, and eventually developed a plan, along with National Christmas Center founder Jim Morrison, to revive the center.

While the center will be reopening on a grand scale in a 120’ x 60’ restored Barn of Belmont at some point in the future, the interim National Christmas Center is at a warehouse and displays many of the center’s memorabilia. Moyer was part of the process of setting up decorations in the interim museum.

“I came in when basically almost everything was done structurally,” explained Moyer. “We just had to finish up the decorating part. It was very important that this was reopened for the public to see. We plan on being open until we move.”

Moyer’s inspirations

Moyer’s passion for Christmas decorating stems from his inspiration, Frank Weihrauch Jr. From 1962 to the early 2000s, Weihrauch filled his yard on Walnut Street in Lebanon with enchanting lights and decorations,  his displays becoming well-known in the community.

“Frank Weihrauch’s Christmas display had a special glow to it, my Dad always said that,” said Moyer. “My Dad passed away from liver cancer in October 2016. But he always said that Frank Weihrauch’s house had a special glow to it, and it really did. It was like no other display that I’ve even seen in recent years.”

Read More: How Frank Weihrauch Jr. made Christmas lights a Lebanon tradition

Moyer was in his junior year of high school when Weihrauch died in 2006. This was also the first year of decorations posted on Moyer’s website.

Moyer’s 2006 display.

“I wouldn’t even be at the National Christmas Center without Frank’s inspiration.”

Over the  years, Moyer continued to refine his decorating skills and acquire new pieces for his display, whether from online, stores, yard sales, antiquing, or as gifts.

“Almost every piece of my Christmas display has a story,” Moyer said, recalling his childhood neighbor who built a wooden reindeer set which was passed along to him after the neighbor’s passing.

Moyer also became part of the online Christmas decorating community in the late 2000s, where he was able to learn from others who had been displaying lights for years.

“Through those forums I was able to meet a lot of people online from across the country, a lot of great people who’ve really helped me out with my own display,” said Moyer. These forums also gave him a jumping-off point to start choreographing his display to music.

Moyer also went to the Lebanon Career and Technology Center for electrical technology.

When he was in elementary school, Moyer’s family went to a showing of “Oklahoma!”. Following the show, his uncle took him backstage and showed him the stage lighting and sets and sparked an interest in theatrical lighting that would follow Moyer to high school, where he helped with the stage lighting and with the sound system for the musicals.

“I use my knowledge of stage lighting systems and sound systems for the part of my Christmas display that’s synchronized to music, and I use my background with electronics and electrical wiring to build my own extension cords and fix lights that no longer work to get them working again,” explained Moyer, noting that his time at CTC also allowed him to build lighting controllers used to synchronize his lights to music.

As of now, Moyer’s 2021 display is not yet complete, as he has been busy working with the Christmas Center. However, he hopes to finish by Christmas.

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Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.