Compiled by E. Sue Terhune
Creator of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights
"One thing my father taught me early is that if I worked harder than anybody else,
I would achieve my dreams."
What would you do if you had a Christmas display of 3 million lights and the neighbors were complaining about the traffic they generated in the neighborhood? If you are Jennings Osborne, you donate them to Disney World. It all began in 1986 in Little Rock, Arkansas when six year old Breezy asked her Dad to put up some Christmas lights and ended after a seven year legal battle when the United States Supreme Court ordered the display to be shut down permanently. He started with 1000 red lights and ended with 3 million lights that could be seen by plane from as far as 80 miles away. In 1985, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights found a new home at Disney World in Orlando, Florida where millions of visitors from all over the world find delight in the display.
Jennings and Mitzi Osborne were born in the same hospital in Fort Smith, Arkansas, just three days apart in September, 1943. Their families lived only 13 blocks apart, but their first meeting didn't take place until 9th grade. The two didn't meet again until they were out of college and both were working at St. Edward's Hospital in Fort Smith, AR. After four dates they were engaged and married on 13 November 1965.
After his graduation from the St.Vincent School of Medical Technology in Little Rock, Jennings took a total of only three days off during the years of 1965, 1966, and 1967. The three days......Christmas. A typical day for Jennings meant working the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift at Baptist Medical Center as the Department Head of Microbiology then racing across town for his 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. lab technician work at the St. Vincent Infirmary, and finishing with on call responsibilities from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for St Vincent. If that weren't enough, he also performed freelance bloodwork for twelve other doctors. He and Mitzi were willing to make any sacrifice possible to realize their dreams. After three grueling years, they established the Arkansas Research Medical Testing Center in 1968. Their business became a huge success because, according to Mitzi, "We worked nonstop." And she means this literally. Both actually lived at work and wouldn't come home for months at a time. By 1976 they were able to afford the home where they now live. The house in Little Rock is 22,000 square feet, has 6 suites, 13 bathrooms, three kitchens, swimming pool, hot tub, and tennis courts. They also purchased the 5,000 square-foot houses on either side to complete the Cantrell Compound.
After five miscarriages, Mitzi and Jennings welcomed Allison Brianne Osborne into the world on May 29, 1980. Her nickname later became Breezy because "she came into our world in a hurry", remarked Mitzi. Breezy was taught from the beginning that being able to get whatever she wanted or needed didn't make her more special than anyone else.
While the famed Christmas house no longer lights up the sky during the holiday season, the Osbornes continue to make their mark in other ways. In addition to sponsoring Christmas-light displays in 32 cities in Arkansas and Disney World, the Osbornes are also known for their gigantic and tasty barbecues and lavish fireworks displays which they put on annually "just to make people happy". The display on Residential Street on the Disney grounds opens at Thanksgiving and runs through the middle of January. Jennings, Mitzi and Breezy are the guests of honor each year from Dec. 26 to New Year's Day.