PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 24, 2012

Wiese family brings back Christmas cheer

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

NEDERLAND — In the past 30-plus years thousands of people have walked through Billie and Lela Wiese’s Texas Wonderland Christmas Light display in Beauxart Garden.

Last year Lela Wiese suffered a heart attack and stroke forcing the family to cancel the annual display. The festive lights are back this year in a scaled down version.

“We missed it last year but it couldn’t be helped,” Lela Wiese said while seated on a  bench on her front porch. “ There was no way I could have sat here in the cold.”

So, Billie Wiese said, “we took some time off.”

“The good Lord works in mysterious ways,” Billie Wiese said.

The front yard is up and running — the nativity scene, angels, trees and more sparkle with lights. The back yard, once filled with more holiday scenes, is not included in the show this year.

“I cut back,” he said. “Not only on account of health reasons but nature has began to take a toll on me too.”

A portion of the giant display is now down the street in the front yard of Barbara Haro, their daughter. Another part is with another daughter out-of-state.

“My daughter took the snow men, rein deer and peppermint with Merry Christmas and the one in Mississippi has some too,” he said.

This year may be the final year of the Wiese’s Texas Wonderland.

“I’m debating whether to do this again next year,” he said.

The house remains a popular destination even with the smaller, scaled down version. Visitors still get out of their vehicles and walk through the yard and the Wiese’s still take time to meet the guests.

“Last Friday and Saturday (Dec. 15 and Dec. 16) we had 200 to 300 people come out,” he said. “It was gotten to be a tradition with a lot of people and they still come around. Many of them tell us how much they missed it last year.”

Billie Wiese described the scene he is so familiar with: The family sitting on the porch as people gather in the yard, children are playing and grown-ups are laughing and carrying on.

Lela Wiese said she will still come out if it’s not too cold.

The tradition started around 1976 and continued the tradition as a hobby after their children became adults.

The Wiese’s have had many memorable moments they cherish.

Billie Wiese tells of one cold Christmas Eve about a decade or so ago.

“I turned the lights off then I heard some racket outside. I look and three car loads of kids get out in the middle of the yard. I could see the kids were young adult, teens, and they kept asking me to turn the lights back on and they were singing,” he said of the group that had eventually moved to the back yard. “So I turned the lights back on and as soon as I did it started snowing, We couldn’t ask for nothing better on Christmas day.”

Lela Wiese remembers another special moment from their years of hosting the Texas Wonderland.

“We had a boy propose to his fiancé in the back yard,” she said. “He had us keep her up here until he was ready. He even brought some a bottle of champagne.”

Texas Wonderland is located at 9071 Park Loop in Beauxart Gardens. The light display begins around dark until about 10 p.m. daily through New Year’s Eve.

Take the Beauxart Garden exit off U.S. 69 and then a right on N. Garden Drive to find Wiese’s Texas Wonderland.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews