It’s almost time for the Christmas lights at The Rings in Ingleby Barwick – and people have been coming up with their suggestions for the best 2020 message.
The festive Myton Way tradition – started 16 years ago by best mates and next-door neighbours Stuart Thirkell and Martin Harsley – has taken on a life of its own.
Every year thousands drive past the signs outside Stuart’s house.
Some have joked it’s “replaced the Coca Cola truck advert!” and it’s not Christmas “till the sign goes up”.
Their messages are sometimes cheeky, sometimes poignant – but they always raise a smile.
Persimmon Homes received threats from fans, when they unknowingly covered the railings with a company sign one November.
And Stuart has even had people knocking on the door asking where the lights are, when he’s late putting them up.
“Martin had 10 feet of rope left one year,” said Stuart, “and he asked ‘what should I do with it’.
“So we wrote Noel.
“I’ve always been known as a Grinch, so the next year we did ‘Humbug’.
“It went from there.
“With Facebook, people started chatting about it.
“People love to offer suggestions on what it should say.
“It’s really nice.”
“Get your Baubles Out” was a favourite, along with “Never Eat Yellow Snow”.
And many loved the “Believe UTB”, in tribute to late BBC broadcaster and ardent Boro fan Ali Brownlee.
“I was sat with Martin over a bottle of wine one year and Forrest Gump came on the telly,” said Stuart.
“It gave us a laugh, that’s where we got “Run Turkey Run” from.
If you can give people a bit of a giggle, that’s all that matters.
“This year I’ll need about 60 metres.
“Even my wife doesn’t know what it will say.
“I got a phone call from Persimmon one year, the staff were getting threats.
“They put some of their boards in front of the railings, and someone rang them saying they’d go down there in their 4×4 and take them down.
“To give them their dues, they were absolutely fantastic and they removed them round the corner. It cost them hundreds of pounds.
“One couple has had their photo taken in front of the signs every year, they have two kids now.
“It’s nice when you hear that.”
Stuart and his wife Annie, who have been foster carers for 18 years, are raising money for Middlesbrough Foster Carer’s Association this year via JustGiving.
“There are no parties for the kids this year,” he added, “no pantomime and no fundraising.
“It would be nice to think we could raise a couple of hundred pounds for them.
“The lights have been for the kids, and we’ve loved it.
“I don’t think I’d dare not put them up now.”
Fans of the lights have taken to social media to say “thank you”.
“I love this Ingleby tradition,” one wrote, “please don’t ever move.”
Another said: “We love it every year, I remember being in hospital and my mum telling me the lights were on and I saw them on the drive home. It was awesome.”
“Thank you for cheering everybody up on a cold dark drive home every night,” another added.