Denham Springs woman removes 'middle finger' Christmas light display

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Sarah Childs plugs in the Christmas lights on her roof in the shape of a middle finger at her house in Denham Springs. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Sarah Childs plugs in the Christmas lights on her roof in the shape of a middle finger at her house in Denham Springs.

Light fight gained national attention

Sarah Childs’ bright middle finger in Denham Springs has been put to rest.

Childs, who gained international attention for placing Christmas lights in the shape of a middle finger on her Starlite Drive home roof, said Tuesday that she removed the lights so she will no longer offend her neighbors.

Childs first lit up her roof more than a year ago, sparking a debate among her, her neighbors, the city and the ACLU over her rights to maintain the display.

Childs reinstalled the lights last week, stoking the fire again.

But Childs said she brought the lights down in the last couple of days — this time for good.

“It was just directed to one person,” she said. “I just didn’t want to offend the community anymore.”

Neighbors have appeared ready to put the situation behind them ever since the lights went back up. All but one declined comment when approached last week when Childs was on her roof designing her middle finger.

Todd Traylor, a neighbor of Childs’ on Starlite Drive who has expressed disgust in the past about the lights, was terse but sounded satisfied Tuesday when asked about the giant finger’s demise.

“Hooray,” Traylor said. “That’s my reaction.”

Traylor said he wanted to “let that story die” when asked for further comment.

Childs, the former Sarah Henderson, moved into the home in 2007 but moved out within the last year or so after divorcing her husband. But she still considers the home “half my house” and stops by from time to time to check on it.

Childs put the lights up for the first time after Thanksgiving in 2012, following long-standing arguments with neighbors, one of whom Childs accused of stealing her dog.

Childs has said she mounted the display as a way to express her anger.

Nearby residents expressed disgust at the bright middle finger and complained to police. Officers went to Childs’ house to ask her to take down the display.

Childs agreed to remove the finger, but she said a neighbor said something to her that irked her. So she decided to fight back.

The ACLU eventually got involved and sued the city, on Childs’ behalf, in federal court. A judge granted Childs’ request for a restraining order prohibiting Denham Springs officials from interfering with the lights.

The court case was settled in January 2013 , with city officials agreeing not to meddle with the display.

Childs kept the lights up until New Year’s Eve in 2012, when somebody tore them down. She has said she left them off until recent weeks, when personal issues have her frustrated again.

Childs reinstalled the lights on Dec. 9. But someone came by overnight and cut the lights down, tossing the strands in her front yard.

Childs was back at it the next day, replacing the finger and adding two more.

Childs has said she believes neighbors cut the lights down, though she has no proof it happened that way. She said she never contacted police about the lights being cut down.

Childs received a wave of negative criticism both nationally and internationally for the display, including a flurry of comments on The Advocate’s website and Facebook page.

Childs said Tuesday that she received even more threats when she reinstalled the lights.

But that’s not why she took them down, she said.

“I took them down just solely because it’s Christmastime, and my intent was never to offend my whole community,” she said.

This doesn’t mean everything is peaceful now between her and the neighbors, Childs said.

But the lights won’t show up again soon, Childs said. “It’s over,” Childs said with a sigh.