Fayette County

Easter decorations bring smiles that make it all worth it

Neither physical nor financial limitations can keep Betty Best from generating awe and wonder in the eyes of passers-by, especially those of the young children she tries so hard to please.

On four holidays — the Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas and Easter — Best decorates the outside of her house in such a way that she hopes will bring a smile to every face.

"I started out about 12 years ago because of the grandchildren and other children," said Best, 58. "Their eyes light up when they see all the eggs, and I have so many people stopping by and taking pictures."

One day, a man knocked on her door and asked if he could take a picture of his daughter among the Easter decorations. Of course he could, she said.

In the last couple of years, she has seen a definite increase in the number of cars slowing as they pass.

Best, mother of five and grandmother of seven, can't decorate as she has in the past because of nerve damage in her legs, feet and hands caused by diabetes.

And she can't just go out and buy new attractions on her fixed disability income.

Those obstacles, however, are not large enough to prevent her from doing what she loves to do.

"My sons come over and help me put up the lights," she said. "And I am particular. I want it a certain way, no wavy lines. But when the wind gets up like today, it's hard to keep it straight."

The four-day decorating process started March 5, Best said. This year, the installers were hampered by fickle lights that had to be restrung when they failed to cooperate.

"They just don't make them to last any more," she said.

Best counted 1,700 lights in this year's Easter's trimmings, which takes four days to dismantle.

But how can someone on a fixed income create such a spectacular display?

Best said she can't afford true Easter lights, which usually cost about $5.99 for 10 on a string. Instead, she buys Christmas lights on sale after that holiday, when she can get 150 lights on a string for as little as $3.

Then she buys plastic eggs after Easter for about 25 cents a package, carves holes into the eggs and slips them over the lights. Voila! For very little money, she gives a lot of pleasure.

Her electric bill increases no more than $5, she said.

So what kind of person does something like this? Who goes to all this trouble to please others?

Best was born in Little Texas, a small hamlet at the corner of Military Pike and Fort Springs-Pinchard Lane in western Fayette County, she said. She married at 15, had three children in three years and was divorced at 18.

Four years later, she married her second husband, now deceased. That marriage lasted 28 years and produced two more children.

She has held a variety of jobs, the last of which was as breakfast cook at C&P Market on Manchester Street, where her daughter now cooks.

With a small house and front yard, the wealth of decorations could result in a shoddy and cheesy presentation. But Best will not have that.

The colorful Easter ornamentations that cover the hedge, eaves, trees and arch that welcomes you into her home are tastefully done. Among the Easter bunnies and colorful eggs stands a lighted wooden cross draped with purple material, which she changes to white cloth on Good Friday.

Most of the time, she said, she also sets up miniature villages inside her home. Not this year, though, but they will return at Christmas. Her living room had only a few dozen soft or resin bunnies.

"She's always been like that," said Delores Hager, Best's daughter. "She loves having people drive by her home and stopping, and the kids looking. She also loves giving out candy for her grandkids and others. She's always done that."

Neighbor Jim McKeighen said he has lived on Old Georgetown Street for 10 years and that Best has decorated the house all that time. He has no problem with it.

"She has quite a following," he said. "It gets better every year."

Best and her aunt from Little Texas craft a few dozen small Easter baskets from pipe cleaners, cotton balls and miniature baskets. They fill them with candy for the grandchildren and others.

"These are so much fun to make," she said. "It keeps my hands going and me busy."

Though some of her decorations have been stolen and some have simply worn out, family members pick up additional decorations they find in stores, and friends bring things by. Often Best finds a new little something at a thrift store that gets tucked away, ready for next year.

"It's unreal the amount of work that it takes," Hager said.

But it's worth it.

"If you could just see the smiles on the little children's faces, that just makes it," Best said. "It is worth every minute that I put in it."