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Christmas decorations to dye for

A winter wonderland has arrived at 120 4th St. in Farmville.

Coming in for a hair appointment at The Highlight Zone is like stepping into a Hallmark Christmas movie. Christmas decorations extend as far as the eye can see. From 60 lit Christmas trees to nutcrackers and snowmen galore, the salon has been transformed into a real life Christmas village.

The expansive holiday visuals are the product of business owner Rodney Burley, a Farmville native who knew by his early teens he wanted to run his own salon.

“I always knew this is what I wanted to do,” he said.

Burley worked at the location for approximately 10 years before taking over the business. He implemented many changes, including expanding over to the building next door and renaming the salon The Highlight Zone, a name he’d had in mind since he was 14.

The Highlight Zone, as we know it, has now been in operation for 10 years.

Looking around at the abundant holiday decorations on display in Burley’s business, one would assume he must also have a background in interior decorating. But like many of his artistic hobbies, Burley’s a self-taught decorator.

Burley is well-known around town for his beautiful holiday decor and began putting up his larger holiday displays four years ago.

“I have cats at home,” he explained. “I’m now up to 10 cats, so I can’t decorate at home, so I just let it all out here.”

Burley typically decorates The Highlight Zone for two holidays, Halloween and Christmas. Although he loves to go all out, 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic meant the business had to shut down for about two months. The global health crisis took its toll on many small businesses this year, and even Burley dialed back his Halloween decor slightly after the exhausting spring and summer months.

He had intentions of cutting back on his Christmas decor as well. However, after looking at the year we’ve all had, he figured both he, the customers and the town needed a little Christmas. In fact, more Christmas was needed than ever before.

Typically, Burley begins the shop’s transformation into a winter wonderland November 1. This season, he was so excited that he came in on Halloween night and started taking down spooky decorations and bringing the trees out.

This year’s decorations could not be the usual fare, though. The Highlight Zone has a color scheme of black, grey and silver all year round, and for past holidays Burley has stuck to this palette, utilizing an array of black, grey and silver Christmas trees for a sense of winter wonderland elegance. He also has a tradition of including white owls in his decorations.

But Burley knew this year his customers needed to go back to a more nostalgic Christmas, a place of childhood wonder full of nutcrackers, rocking horses, red trucks and robust colors.

So, 2020’s decor features room after room of green trees, candy canes, gingerbread men and more.

To walk into the salon is to walk into the living room on Christmas morning.

“I wanted it to feel like you just ran down the steps Christmas morning and Santa had arrived,” he said.

The monochrome trees are still present, but Burley has given the classic, dark decor its own side of the salon known as “Christmas past.” The new decor is “Christmas present.”

This year, Burley has a total of 60 trees in the salon ranging from 3 to 9 feet in height. If you factor in non-lit trees, that number is much higher.

Although The Highlight Zone’s entire shop would likely impress even Santa himself, Burley’s most special decorations come in the form of a large Christmas village display located in the middle of the salon.

The tiny winter town was donated by customers very near to Burley’s heart. He recalled salon guest Bonnie Nevarro, who always enjoyed Burley’s Christmas decorations and spoke of her own holiday decor.

When Bonnie passed away a few years ago, Burley received a visit from her husband, Merv Nevarro, who gifted Burley Bonnie’s large Christmas village set and her collection of Hallmark keepsake ornaments.

Burley was touched by the gift and was able to use the village in last year’s display, which Merv was able to see before he passed away shortly thereafter.

Now, the Nevarro’s Christmas village is a centerpiece of the salon’s winter decor, and the trees surrounding the display are covered in Bonnie’s beautiful keepsake ornaments.

When asked where he puts the Christmas decorations when it’s time to take the display down, he highlighted that he does have storage space, although this year he’s really cutting it close.

“I’m going to be putting stuff in rooms that normally wouldn’t have Christmas stuff in it,” he laughed.

Burley said he does get lots of social media attention for his unbeatable holiday decor, and customers are always wowed by the transformation. Some even become inspired after a visit to go home and start on their own decorations, bringing a chain of holiday spirit across town.

With this much work put into the salon, Burley plans to leave decorations up until the end of January.

The Highlight Zone currently operates on appointments only. Burley said as he looks to the future, he hopes to keep the salon a relaxing, peaceful environment where guests can escape from the daily grind. Now, those guests can escape to a winter wonderland that’s positively to dye for.