Family spreads holiday cheer with lights

Those who visit Santa’s Ranch in New Braunfels may wonder if Santa’s elves themselves had a hand in creating this magical winter wonderland of lights.

And, indeed, the idea may not be too far from the truth. While many people use the hotter months to soak up the sun, splash around the pool, and enjoy barbeque cookouts and summer vacations, the Basses have something else on their minds: Christmas.

Rather than making toys by hand in the North Pole tradition, Melanie and Frank Bass, along with their twelve-year-old daughter, Bailey, and ten-year-old son, Blake, work year round to bring more than 100 different displays—requiring more than 1 million lights—to their drive-through Christmas lights park.

“A couple months before the exhibit opens, it’s all hands on deck,” says Melanie. “It’s very, very important that the kids know that they are a part of this and that they know Santa’s Ranch is a heartfelt, very hands-on endeavor—a reflection of us,” she says.

In addition to re-wrapping lights and giving advice on color arrangements, Bailey and Blake also have a say in deciding which new displays to add and which old ones to nix.

“A lot of ideas are inspired by them,” says Melanie, adding that the monster truck and space shuttle ideas originated with Blake, and the planets and winter scenes wouldn’t have been created without Bailey’s inspiration. “They just pour their hearts into it.”

“It truly is a family-owned business,” she continues. Once all family members have approved an idea, they build the displays in their backyard. “My mother lives right next door, so we’ll light it up at night and say, ‘Hey, how does it look over there?’”

Santa’s Ranch opened its gates eleven years ago, but the idea originated several years prior with the aid of a single spiral notebook and the desire to contribute to the spirit of Christmas in their community, Melanie says.

“It took several years of working and praying about it, getting inspiration and fine-tuning,” Melanie says. “We wanted people to like it. And, by God’s grace, it just ended up working.”

Guests can expect to spend about thirty minutes taking the colorful, twinkling driving tour through about ten acres of more than 100 different light displays and animations.

“It’s become exactly what we prayed for it to be,” Melanie says. “And the most rewarding part is how it unites my family.”

For more information about Santa’s Ranch, along with a coupon for $2 off the entry fee, visit

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