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The top Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton light displays to see this holiday season

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Long before creating elaborate light displays for his business Festive Lighting Pros, Matt Nemeth’s only client was his mother Dolly. 

As a teenager, Nemeth would pick up odd jobs around their Johnstown, Pennsylvania neighborhood. He’d shovel snow or take ashes out of furnaces, and if one of his mother’s Christmas bulbs burned out, he’d replace it.

“Matthew was a young guy, and he had lots of ideas,” Dolly Nemeth said. “He took his spending money, and he bought decorations for the house.”

Then, Nemeth could only afford a string of lights at a time. Now that he owns his own lighting business, his mother’s annual displays keep getting bigger, better and brighter. 

He still travels from Lakewood Ranch to Pennsylvania these days to work on his mom's home. Despite the hours spent outside in the cold temperatures, he hopes to continue the tradition for another 10 years. 

Every year, the Nemeth family, about 40 of them, gather the night after Thanksgiving at his mom's home for a light-up party. But Dolly Nemeth’s displays attract more than just family to her home. Tour buses drive by, too. 

The crew is still hard at work on Dec. 15 setting up the display at 11516 Sweetflag Drive.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

“The firetrucks and Santa Claus went by beeping the horn. It’s really something. People come by and take pictures, and it’s entertaining for me because I’m going to be 90,” Dolly Nemeth said. “I’m being entertained inside of my home.”

Matt Nemeth's neighbors along Sweetflag Drive here in Riverwalk Grove can say the same. Nemeth put up a Christmas tree that towers 18 feet over his driveway, which has created a regular flow of traffic through the neighborhood.

Lake Vista residents Kathy and Jeff Groob saw the tree from Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. They’ve driven by several times to check the progress or show friends and family.

“They can see it from the space station,” Jeff Groob said. “I’ll bring my sunglasses next time.”

The tree is 18 feet tall with the star.
Courtesy image

With a crew of seven and an aerial lift machine, it still takes about a week to set up the display, and recent winds slowed them down.

It’s not as simple as just hanging lights. There are speakers on the roof to play Christmas music, and all the lights are set to a remote that controls the colors and makes them either twinkle or fade. Nemeth’s got all the technology, but he still loves the nostalgia of a classic C-9 bulb.

“The size of a C-9 bulb is what we had when we were kids when our parents would screw in the bulbs,” Nemeth said. “They were glass. Now, they’re plastic and faceted. They’re cut in a diamond pattern, so that when the light comes out, it shines like a prism.” 

He estimates that he’s got 70 to 80 sets on his Oak tree alone. The bulbs also line the palm trees, the roof and the shrub beds.   

While he admits his setup, which also includes six trees inside his home, is unrealistic for the average homeowner, his company does offer more affordable packages around $1,500. Some of his bigger residential clients have spent upwards of $25,000. 

Nemeth’s home is in Riverwalk Grove at 11516 Sweetflag Drive, but the rest of East County is shining a little brighter this time of the year, too. 

6306 98 St. E. in Braden Woods
Photo by Liz Ramos

9503 64th Ave. E. in Braden Woods
Photo by Liz Ramos

9220 65th Ave. E. in Braden Woods
Photo by Liz Ramos

6626 63rd Terrace E. in Tara
Photo by Liz Ramos

2118 152nd Court E. in Mill Creek
Photo by Liz Ramos

14802 21st Ave. E. in Mill Creek
Photo by Liz Ramos

211 141st Court NE in Mill Creek
Photo by Liz Ramos

317 147th St. NE in Mill Creek
Photo by Liz Ramos

8223 Timber Lake Lane in Palm Aire.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

8034 Timber Lake Lane in Palm Aire
Photo by Ryan Kohn

7147 Spikerush Court in Riverwalk Grove
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

6627 Pirate Perch in the Ravines
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

14414 Sundial Place in the Ravines
Photo by Lesley Dwyer



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.


Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.


Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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