Hay in Huddleston: Local Farmer Keeps Christmas Tradition Alive

Huddleston native Beth Bays stands in front of her Charlie Brown hay sculpture, to show how tall it stands. The display is in Huddleston, just next to the Huddleston Post Office at 1080 Tolers Ferry Road. Contributed photo.

By Amie Knowles

December 7, 2020

A Huddleston resident puts on an impressive holiday display.

HUDDLESTON – For eight years, one Huddleston farmer has provided her community with a reason to smile during Christmas. Despite the pandemic, or possibly because of it, she was determined that year nine would go as planned.

A lighthearted Christmas scene went up at Buckscrape Farms a few weeks ago, and it didn’t take long for word to spread. From neighbors down the road to a feature in Southern Living Magazine, Beth Bays received positive praise.

Each year, Bays creates a different scene for the roadside attraction, set up right beside the Huddleston Post Office on Tolers Ferry Road. In 2019, visitors encountered performer Will-hay Nelson. This year, the scene portrays Charl-hay Brown.

A tradition begins

It all started when a local contest challenged residents to create hay bale art.

“Bedford Farm Bureau did a hay bale decorating contest and so me and a buddy of mine were like, ‘What the heck? Let’s do it!’ And we made a giant teddy bear,” Bays said. “Everybody liked it so much. People pinned notes to it, thanking me. People leave presents on them. Little things to say ‘thank you.’”

The enthusiastic response initially surprised Bays. She decided to make another display the next year and yet another the next. Pretty soon, it became a local tradition to see what she’d create next.

“Every time I’m out there working on them it’s just constant traffic, blowing the horn, hollering out the window, saying ‘thank you,’” Bays said.” So yeah, the community liked it so much that I just kept doing it.”

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A last-minute idea

Bays doesn’t spend all day every day thinking about her next creation. In fact, the weeks leading up to building the display aren’t unlike any other week on her farm – it’s business as usual until right before the big day.

“I never think of anything to do until the last second,” Bays said.

This year, she originally considered doing a Tiger King display. However, she shifted gears when she learned that Apple TV purchased the rights to the Charlie Brown holiday specials. The network didn’t originally slate the programs for free public viewing in 2020. The company since relented, allowing PBS one-time airs for the Thanksgiving and Christmas specials.

“That really hurt my heart because, you know, that was always my favorite memory growing up as a little girl. And now I have two little girls myself and every year, we sit down on the couch as a family and we would watch Charlie Brown. It made me so mad,” Bays said. “And I thought, ‘I can’t do anything about that, but I can at least bring some Charlie Brown to our little corner of the world.’”

Bays called Charl-hay Brown her favorite display to date – that’s what she also said about Will-hay Nelson and the display before that.

“Every year that I do these, I say, ‘Oh, you know what? This one is my favorite,’” Bays said. “But I think that Charlie Brown might be the top of the list. I really love him.”

Huddleston native Beth Bays creates hay sculptures like these two each year for Christmas. Contributed photo.

Creating the scene

So far, Charl-hay Brown takes the cake for being the most difficult display. In comparison, Will-hay Nelson took a couple of days for construction. Charl-hay Brown, Woodstock, Snoopy and the doghouse took about a week.

“We had to build a doghouse and stuff. I am the world’s worst carpenter and so cutting wood and making a decent structure is not my thing,” Bays said. “It took a while to figure all that out.”

Much to her dismay, the strong winds over the weekend toppled Snoopy and totally dismantled the doghouse.

“The winds blew the doghouse over and rolled it all the way across the field and completely demolished it,” Bays said. “I was in tears. Someone sent me a picture and I was so upset.”

Bays and her husband drove out to the display to inspect the scene. As they surveyed the damage, another person pulled up.

“The nicest man stopped and then him and two of his buddies came back the next day, Sunday morning, and helped me finish putting it all back together,” Bays said. “And they actually made it, like, well, so it will probably stay up.”

Driving by

While Bays doesn’t live on the same lot as her display, neighbors across the street cheerfully report the number of cars they witness cruising by as each season progresses. Currently, neighbors estimate that 30 to 40 families stop to take pictures every day.

Even though Bays doesn’t physically see every visitor, she oftentimes hears from them.

“People call me. They send me messages,” Bays said. “If anyone sees me up there, they stop and talk. I mean, people will stop and talk for hours and tell me how much it means to them.”

One man recently told Bays that he puts her hay bale art in his family Christmas letter every year, which he sends to loved ones all over the world.

“He said even though they don’t live here, they all look so forward to seeing what I’m going to build this year,” Bays said. “He said my hay things have been in his family letter for the past five or six years.”

Others also made Bays’ tradition into one of their own.

“I saw one family get out in matching Christmas jammies. They had a camera on a tripod, sitting there taking their family Christmas photo,” Bays said. “Oh, it just tickles me to death.”

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Spreading joy

Whether it’s a smile, a chuckle or the main event for an annual trip to Huddleston, Bays expressed that she hopes her display brings happiness.

“Especially this year, everybody needs a little extra joy in their lives. I’ve been doing it for a long time, just for fun, to make people smile. But this year in particular it was really important to get something up there,” Bays said. “I wanted to get something up there as early as I could so people could enjoy it as long as they could.”

To see the Charl-hay Brown Christmas display day or night, simply drive to 1080 Tolers Ferry Road in Huddleston.

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected]

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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