Building a Winter Wonderland for Generations
It has long been rumored that Santa Claus had an idea that brought a twinkle to his eyes every time he flew with his reindeers over a spacious piece of land resting in a sleepy little town called Fishers. So on one starless winter’s night, he sent Elf to the cozy house of Arline and Mac Reynolds. It was the very night they were celebrating the start of a new life as the proud owners of a new family business.
No one is exactly sure what Elf did to plant the seed of Santa’s idea to create the best Holiday Winter Wonder Way of Lights that would brighten the lives of all who gazed upon it for generations to come. But the magic was planted, nesting quietly in Arline’s heart for several years until one day a simple suggestion by a trusted employee began a tradition that would change the fabric of State Road 37 from Thanksgiving to Christmas to this very day. Before we go on with the story, perhaps it would be wise to share with you how it all began.
The Year was 1955
Mac and Arline Reynolds had made up their minds to sell their family farm as allergies made it impossible to continue farming. They knew taking their three children away from the life of being farmers would not be easy, but times had fallen hard on the life of farming, and tough decisions had to be made.
To be honest, everyone except the banker (who encouraged them to make the move) felt the couple was making a big mistake selling the farm in a depressed market, let alone taking the money and reinvesting it back into a business in which neither one had ever worked. But together, they had a driving faith and a firm commitment to build a business based in agriculture, tractor parts, equipment, toys and a public service model for themselves and their children that would last no matter what the weather brought.
And so on December 15, 1955, the Reynolds family opened Reynolds Farm Equipment in a store in the middle of Fishers, Indiana. It was a John Deere dealership from the beginning, and from the first day, the whole family worked at it. Mac and Arline handled ordering, picking up, stocking and selling parts. Mac was the salesman, and Arline also took care of all the bookkeeping. The Reynolds children who were 14, 12 and 10 at the time worked after school, on weekends and during the summer. Employees John Wilder and Neal Bower handled service. Howard Barnhill was hired as a salesman shortly after the business opened.
To say that the road has always been easy for the Reynolds family would not be telling the whole truth of this story. As with any business, challenges lurked within each new sunrise. But this family found the way to get past the rough times. Mac used to say, “What kept it interesting are the people you meet. If you’re out there having a rough time, it could be very discouraging, but then someone walks in wanting a part, and you have it. Or if you can help him keep his combine running, then it offsets all the problems of the day and makes it all worth it.”
A solid reputation and lots of hard work soon saw the business expanding. Although Mac and Arline encouraged their children to get a good education and investigate other opportunities, the family business is where they all wanted to be after their college educations.
“It’s satisfying to have created jobs, to have places for your children,” says Arline. Today a third generation has come along, and the attraction is strong for them to be a part of their very successful family business if they so choose.
So what began in one rented building in Fishers has grown to an industrial park at the intersections of State Road 37 and I-69, plus a service center in Anderson, Mooresville, Muncie, Lebanon and Sheridan, Indiana as well as stores in Xenia, Ohio and Nicholasville, Kentucky.
Reynolds Farm Equipment has indeed grown into one of the largest John Deere dealerships in the country with a reputation for giving back through a generous and giving community stewardship which leads us to sharing with you how the spectacle of Christmas lights began.
As we said, an employee asked one year about putting up some lights to brighten up the holiday season on the property. Arline told him to go ahead and give it a shot. He decided to use an old Model D tractor sitting in the warehouse. He strung lights across the body of the tractor, and it looked as if the tractor was moving. When people began commenting on how much they enjoyed seeing the display as they drove by, they also encouraged them to do more.
This moved Arline to ask one of their experienced staff welders if he could add reindeer antlers to the tractor display. Needless to say, tractors gave way to hundreds of crafted displays, including several pieces from L.S. Ayres original window scenes.
Today, Arline thinks there might be nearly one million lights strung on the multiple creative displays strategically placed which range from the Manger in Bethlehem and horse drawn carriages to hockey players, flying skiers, a farmer planting a field, windmills and so many additional wonderful and magical lighted scenes. You just have to see it for yourself as you drive through this incredible maze of a Winter Wonderland spectacle which is open to the public free of charge.
Keeping to the spirit of giving back, the Reynolds invited the “Come To Me Food Pantry” (located just off 116th Street in Fishers) to join with them in collecting donated cans of food, clothing or accept a monetary gift to help others less fortunate. (Editor’s note: Last year, $36,000 was collected and donated to this worthy community cause. If you’re interested and want to learn more about the good deeds of “Come To Me Food Pantry,” please contact Linda Williams, director of the program at 317-695-0069 or Don Greenlee at 317-522-8006. Just tell them Arline sent you!).
If you’re wondering what it costs the Reynolds family to construct this wonderful light show each year, I’m afraid this is one secret the family does not share. They only say they wholeheartedly want to share the holiday spirit experience with all who take the time to come out to see it year after year, generation after generation. To the Reynolds family, the substantial yearly cost is completely offset when Arline (who will soon be 95) walks to the control box and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, let the show begin!” It is also rumored that a certain man in a red suit with a white beard and a jolly laugh that warms your heart picks up the whopping electric bill year after year! After all, it was really his idea in the first place!
So gather up your family, pack the car with goodwill and prepare to drive through a setting that is truly modeled after Santa’s village at the North Pole. Yes, Virginia, there really are angels, and they live right here in Fishers, Indiana! We call them the Reynolds!
P.S. This year, the first Long Tractor (110) the Reynolds family ever sold 50 years ago was bought back by Mac and once again resides with the Reynolds family. The second such tractor sold in the state of Indiana now resides in the Smithsonian Institute!