Jenks resident uses family tradition to win national Christmas light competition
Jenks citizen, Ben Sumner, was named the winner Wednesday of ABC’s “hit” reality holiday television show, “The Great Christmas Light Fight”.
Season 8 of the show consisted of six one-hour episodes featuring four families with unique displays competing against one another for the “Light Fight Trophy” and a $50,000 cash prize.
Sumner was contacted by the “The Great Christmas Light Fight” casting director in the summer of 2019. He was with his mother at the Glenpool Walmart and received a phone call from Hollywood, California.
The show’s producers had seen a video of his display on YouTube and they wanted to talk to him about being on the show. He said was very skeptical because he never thought his display was good enough to be on a national television show to compete with people that have millions of lights with much bigger houses.
He said he and his mother were both stunned they reached out to him.
“We went from July 2019 to December 2019 being on the show and being casted,” Sumner said. “It’s a long process. It’s hundreds of people that submit their displays. They send a producer to do a site check to make sure everything would look good on TV. For us to get a call, get approved to be on the show the first year and then to win, I still can’t comprehend all of it. It is going to take a while.”
Sumner’s display was chosen through an extensive nationwide search based on previous “elaborate” Christmas light displays, “incredible” choreography and “over-the-top” designs.
Sumner said decorating for Christmas has been in his family’s blood for generations. His family originated in Sapulpa, where his great grandfather, grandfather and father all won first place in the Sapulpa Herald for their Christmas displays.
“I remember as far back as 6-years-old, being able to go out there with my parents and help hang lights and as soon as I saw the twinkling lights on the night sky, I was in love,” Sumner said. “Four generations of our family from Sapulpa, Oklahoma winning just put that into my blood. My dad said he passed the torch down to me. I couldn’t do it without the support of my family. I would say it is my mom and dad’s fault that I am such a Christmas nut because I was around it so much as a kid.”
On top of the influence his family provided, Sumner said another source of inspiration came from a former neighbor in the 31st and Harvard area in Tulsa.
“When I was 8 years old, we lived off 31st and Harvard, there was a pond in that area where a man would deck out his house with neon lights and everything,” Sumner said. “As a kid, my Boy Scout group would meet over there and John Roberson, who had the display, would let us help decorate. He had a vintage mechanical Santa in his window. I looked at my dad and said for Christmas, I want one of those Santa’s. My dad went to the Tulsa Flea Market and there happened to be one. I still have it today and that is what started my love for vintage mechanical store displays.”
Sumner said he was happy to be able to showcase Jenks and its Christmas festivities.
“I know Jenks loves Christmas because you have downtown that is decorated and you have wreaths everywhere, so it is cool to be able to show the Christmas spirit Jenks, Oklahoma has on a national platform,” Sumner said.
Sumner has lived in Jenks since he was 9 years old when his family moved from midtown Tulsa. He bought his current house in 2012. He said getting the opportunity to be on this show is like being in the Olympics of Christmas.
“Being able to be a part of a TV show that focuses on Christmas lights and Christmas displays across the country and to be able to do that from Jenks, Oklahoma is just unbelievable,” Sumner said. “It is literally a dream come true of mine.”
Sumner officially turned on his Christmas lights Dec. 1. The public can drive by the display or get out and enjoy the display up close. Masks are required if you get out of your vehicle. The Sumner house is located at 12520 S. Date Pl. in Jenks.
“I believe God puts everything together in our lives. It is crazy to step back and see how this has all played out and how it has built up to this moment to being on a national TV show,” Sumner said. “I wish my great grandfather could only see that his display was talked about on a national TV show and even though we never met, how he helped light that fire in me.”