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After 47 years of decking the halls, Phifer family to sell parents' home amid COVID hardship

After 47 years of decking the halls, Phifer family to sell home amid COVID hardship
Posted at 11:32 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 11:11:58-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A family who has spread so much joy over the years can’t seem to find much this year.

'A Phifer Christmas' -- the historic Henrico neighborhood Christmas light display, will be scaled back next year, as the Phifer's plan to sell their parents' former home due to hardship amid the pandemic. But the tradition will carry on.

"1974, that was the first year. And now it’s gotten out of control," said Bobby Phifer with a laugh.

It’s a sight you can't miss when pulling onto Asbury Court in Henrico. Two homes stand as the pinnacle of holiday cheer.

For 47 years, the Phifer family has been lighting up their neighborhood and bringing in tens of thousands of spectators a night who've made it a tradition.

"Every year -- this is a hit for us," said Von King who brought his infant son to see it for the first time Thursday.

The mastermind behind the decor, Bobby Phifer, said he found his passion at just six years old when he discovered a shoebox in a shed that had a couple of strings of lights in it and asked his Dad to help him put them up.

By age 11, Phifer said he was doing it all on his own.

"I can’t color, can't sing, I can’t draw but this is my art form here," said Phifer.

Phifer lit up his family's original home, 9606, for decades before purchasing the home next door.

"The biggest thing was mom loved it. So that was the big drive right there," said Phifer. "I told my parents I bought the house next door -- she said are you going to decorate? I'm like 'no.' She’s like, 'no -- you going to decorate?' That’s when you realize it wasn’t a question. It was basically a command,"

Years of memories of decking out both homes was what made this year so bittersweet.

"Yep, this is the last year for the original house, my parent's house," Phifer said.

He said his mom passed away five years ago and recently the family has fallen on hard times.

"COVID's got us bad. Nothing we did wrong. I got really sick and I didn’t work for a long time. Oldest sister has cancer, she’s got COVID now, it’s not looking good. So financially, all we can do is sell that home to save us," Phifer said.

Behind on his mortgage and living paycheck to paycheck, he said selling his parent's home will help him keep his own.

"It’s not so much losing the home -- it’s my sister," Phifer said.

But he said the tradition wouldn't end here.

"The goal to go to 50 years is still going to happen, but not over there," Phifer said. "So because I'm a Phifer, I've been doing this for 47 years, we’re going to continue it next door here."

Phifer said he already had plans for next year and may be able to set up some of the displays in his neighbor's backyard which connects to his front yard.

Phifer said the reason he continued was because of the joy it brought to those around him

"We talk to people nightly out here. They’ll pull you aside, they’ll tell you this gets them through the holidays. You can come here for two hours, everyone’s happy kids are happy there’s no one mad," he said.

CBS 6 asked what the community could do to give back.

"Just come and enjoy one last year. Enjoy both houses. Enjoy the big tree you’ve been looking at for 40 years, probably. Come back and enjoy it one last time. Because here’s the thing. You can’t take memories away from nobody" he said.