A Paincourtville man’s Christmas light display has been a tradition in Assumption Parish for more than 15 years, but nearly all of the decorations were destroyed when an EF 3 tornado ripped through the Belle Rose community in February.
A few neighbors took it upon themselves Sunday to make sure the tradition continues. Ray Daigle said it will be a long time before his Christmas display is back to what it once was.
"We have welders coming over here. We're trying to get this apart," Ray Daigle said.
For more than a decade, his display, which had swelled to more than 2 million lights, was the one to see in Assumption Parish, complete with trains and a working ferris wheels. The few mangled scraps he was able to salvage after the tornado line the garage in his backyard and he is not sure what still works and what does not.
"It’s a hard thing to think about, you know, when you come and you've built up something for 15 years and then within 15 seconds was taken away," said his daughter, Scottie Brister.
For many who have come to expect the huge display, it's just not Christmas without it lighting up the night sky.
"The storm destroyed it, but everything's going to work out,” Hope Robertson said. “Everything's coming together."
Rather than let a tornado tarnish a holiday tradition, dozens of people came together this year to decorate six trees in the front yard with ornaments and lights. It is nowhere near the scale of previous years, but as the lights spring to life, the Christmas cheer is undeniable.
"It means a lot to me because the community cares,” Daigle said. “This brought joy to Paincourtville, Louisiana, to Assumption Parish, and to our community."
While Daigle does plan to grow his display again, he said knowing it will start from the few ornaments brought by members of the community makes it even more magical than before.
"That was awesome, to put a little touch of their heart on those trees. It means a lot," Daigle said.
It's a reminder that giving back is the greatest gift of the holiday season. Each year at the Christmas display, Daigle also takes up donations for Toys for Tots. It's a tradition that also continues this year.