Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you do this? Because I can! I love Christmas and the show brings a lot of joy into the lives of those who watch it. I have always loved putting up Christmas lights. I used to help my father put up lights when I was young. My sons help me put up lights. Using computer animation added a whole new dimension to decorating for Christmas. The purpose for this season is to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. My display is my gift to the community. I hope it will help those who view it remember to keep Christ in Christmas.
Tell me about your show. This is our 11th year doing computer animated Halloween and Christmas light shows. The Christmas show runs from 5:00pm to 10:00pm daily from November 24 through New Year’s Eve. The show has featured as many as 75,000 lights, which are computer animated and synchronized to music. Almost all elements of the show can be displayed in 16 million colors using color changing LED pixels. The 2017 show runs 24 minutes with the lights synchronized to 9 songs and stories. The show repeats continuously throughout the evening.
When did you start using computer animation? I was inspired to use computer animation during the 2006 Christmas season. I started making preparations immediately in order to be ready for 2007. It took an entire year to get ready for the first show. My first computer animated show premiered in 2007. That show featured 30,000 lights. In 2008 the show was expanded to over 60,000 lights. Our 2009 show contained over 70,000 lights controlled by 224 lighting channels. In 2010 we had 75,000 lights controlled by 256 lighting channels. In 2011 we started using color changing LED lights. This significantly reduced the total number of light bulbs but boosted the lighting channels to 5656, allowing the display of 16 million colors. In 2016, we had 14,372 computerized channels controlling approximately 35,000 lights. In 2017, we eliminated all incandescent lights and added 3500 red/green/blue pixels.
How do you control the lights? The lights are controlled by a computer using software and hardware from Light-O-Rama. Each string of lights is plugged into a hardware controller. The controllers are networked together and link back to the computer. Based on the information programmed, the computer sends signals to the controllers to turn the lights on and off. The controllers are divided into 8 networks due to the high volume of signals to the lights. Because each string of lights is individually controlled, over a mile of extension cords are required to connect the lights to the controllers.
Do the lights automatically synchronize to the music? I wish it were that easy. Nothing about it is automatic. Each string of lights on each of the 304 conventional channels has to be individually programmed. The software used to program the lights displays a timeline in 1/20th of a second intervals. With 304 channels, a three minute song has about 1,094,400 little boxes that have to be turned on and off, faded up and down and made to twinkle and sparkle. There are also 14,100 channels that control the 5600 color changing LEDs. It takes about 2 hours to program 15 seconds of a song. Preparation starts when most people are still planning their summer vacations.
How much power does it take to run the show? In 2010, if I turned all the lights on at the same time I would draw about 320 amps. Usually only about one third of the lights are on at a time. I am very careful how I connect the lights to the controllers and how I program the lights to come on so I do not overload a controller or circuit breaker. I have 17 dedicated 20-amp circuits to power the lights. Even with 75,000 lights, because the lights are computer controlled, it actually uses less electricity than a smaller static light display. LED lights use about 10% of the power used by incandescent lights. Color changing LEDs (pixels) have been added every year since 2011. 24,000 single color LED lights were added in 2014. Each year I continue to replace the incandescent lights with LED lights, which reduces the total power consumption. All incandescent lights were eliminated in 2017. The kitchen stove uses more power than the light show.
How much does it cost to do this? It would take all the fun out of it if I kept track of the expenses. Besides, this is my gift to the community and you shouldn’t ask what a gift cost.
You are transmitting the music to my car radio. Do you have your own radio station? I use a short range, low-power FM transmitter to broadcast the music to your car. The music is broadcast on 88.5 FM; a frequency not used in Idaho Falls. I wouldn’t want you to get cold while you watch the show.
What do the neighbors think? Most of the neighbors like it. On opening night the neighbors come over for a lighting ceremony and we have a little get together at the house. The children who live across the street love to sit in their front window and watch the lights.
Are you concerned about vandalism? Yes. I can not comprehend why anyone would want to destroy something so beautiful, but it happens. I use warning signs, motion sensors, pressure sensors and security cameras. If someone vandalizes the display, they will be identified and prosecuted.
Do you do shows for other holidays? I also do a show for Halloween. It runs for two weeks before Halloween from 6:30pm to 10:00pm. I have a patriotic show for the 4th of July, but it has never been displayed. It doesn't get dark in July until 10:00pm.
Who does your announcements? I do some of the announcements and some are done by The Demented Elf.