Display 2010

Display update: 1/10/11

Happy New Year! The show completed the cycle (each song once) for the last time last night. I’m sure the neighbors will be thrilled to get a break from the flashing and blinking. We counted, ballpark, 50 cars per night for the first few weeks, up to 150 cars per night for the days before/after Christmas, and like past years a steady decrease thereafter. Our family ended the season with our new tradition – all the family climbs into our truck, in pajamas, to watch the show one more time… end the evening with family prayer, and then within the hour the show is done. Looking forward to next year! Target after-season sales were very fruitful this year – I think when all was calculated we added another 20,000 LED lights (purchased at 75% off, or $3 per string!). Planning is already underway… rumor has it that the penguins will be coming back next year…. all 30 of them!

Display update: 12/25/10

Merry Christmas! The show has been pretty stable over the last week, one circuit tripped likely from an extension cord below the snow becoming partially unplugged, but appears better now. Last year, we had everything plugged into 4 extension cords coming from the garage (remember, LED lights take very little power!). If one of the 4 circuits tripped from water/rain, 1/4th of the display went dark! This year, we have 16 different cords on 16 different circuits going from garage to various parts of the yard. Now, if one trips only 1 tree and maybe a bush will be dark until I fix it.

Merry Christmas to everyone! Happy Birthday Jesus!

Display update: 12/18/10

Finally found the damaged cords under the snow, the flood lights on the house are up and running again! There’s just something about that part of the display that really makes things pop. And, overheard in our house a few hours ago, Julie: “Honey, I thought you weren’t going to use the LASER because it could damage our eyes?” and Bob: “Well, yea, but it’s Christmas. Just don’t stare into the LASER and you should be fine.” Julie: “Are you sure?” Bob: “Um, I think so.” Actually I spent a lot of time researching the use of a laser as part of the show – the unit in our display is a “Class 3R” unit that meets all government regulations for display, though staring right into the machine does carry a small risk. The only direct view that might be a problem would be from our second story window – so we’re going to cover the window with paper to make sure the younger kids don’t glance out by accident. We also made a new element to add to the display to help make up for some of the buried lights – wrapped lights around some garden fencing, formed them into columns, and voila! a whole new section of lights. All of the songs have been updated to include the new elements, as well as tweaking a few parts of one song that seemed just a little to dark in the yard. Christmas is coming soon! Keeping fingers crossed that the show holds together at least until Christmas!

sign_snowDisplay update: 12/12/10

Well – we’re thankful for a warm home, a good snowblower, and patience. I woke up to the house flood lights blinking randomly…. usually a sign of a rabbit having chewed into one of the special cords. Bummer is, impossible to fix with this much snow on top of everything. One wrong step or pull, and I could break much more than I was trying to fix! We are down to only half of our flood lights working now, not as bright but at least something! The front 4 bushes are entirely covered by more than a foot of snow… that was before the snowplow came and piled on a 4 foot mound of snow along the entire front yard! Even our scrolling LED sign is now hidden, have to figure out a way to get that elevated so we can continue to share messages (and the radio station 97.7) with visitors.

I did spend 2 hours out there plowing and trying to dig out the arches along the driveway, hopefully they still work! We’ll see tonight when the show starts and it is dark enough for me to assess the working parts. At the end of the day, though, Christmas is still coming regardless of how many lights I have blinking, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

nativity_snow

Display update: 12/11/10

Blizzard!! We have 2-foot drifts of snow on top of the other snow, bummer! When the 40mph winds die down, I’ll head out and try to clear snow off of the tops of the bushes/arches and nativity seen so at least some type of show will be visible tonight. Already thinking about a re-design for next year that will protect more of the show from excessive snow like this year. I’d still pick this over the years with no snow at all!

Display update: 12/5/10

Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I’m pretty sure we have over 9 feet of snow on top of our bushes, trees, and unfortunately, all of my power cords. Like a squirrel looking for a buried nut, I always seem to dig in just the right spot to find the cord I need. Good news? 4 songs done including one lineup change because we just LOVED the song (Sara Renner’s “Do You Hear What I Hear?“). Probably 80% of our lights are out, with the depth of the snow we might just have to stop here. We’ll see!

Display update: 11/28/10

Ugh. Between freezing rain initially damaging some of the electronics, and now melting snow again getting water into the system, it has been a challenge to keep the show (or pieces of the show) running. You’ll know the electrics are having problems when random lights stay “stuck” on, or random blinking lights that just don’t “make sense” for the song playing. Last year we had rabbits chewing through random cords that was very hard to track down! And I am seeing more rabbit tracks in the yard now. Challenges but we keep going!

Display update: 11/26/10

behind schedule with songs and getting rest of lights up. You might have noticed the ladder tied to one of the trees – have to get up to the top when the wind and rain slow down to finish that tree!

Display update: 10/31/10

Halloween show (test run) had some problems that probably only I would notice, but lot of work to do leading up to a Thanksgiving lights-on day.

The 2010 display will set another family record! Last year’s 2009 display had about 150,000 lights. This year we are at about 200,000 – 98% are LED again this year. New colors, new design, a few new created structures (including our favorite addition the Nativity Scene) and another 500 feet of extension cords are allowing us to feel a little fresh this year. Like last year, more than 1000 individual elements are computer controlled. For each minute of music, more than 5 hours of computer programming creates the animations this year!

We have 4 songs again this year, though we’re done with commercial songs… all Christian music and/or artists. If you like the music please support the artists by purchasing their work online (links to Amazon mp3 downloads):

Can’t Believe It’s Christmas: VeggieTales

Do You Hear What I Hear?: Sara Renner

Christmas and You: Go Fish

Happy Birthday Jesus: Praise Hymn Tracks

Even though the family is quite busy, everyone pitches in again this year:

Alex (now 17) played a big role early on in testing and problem solving some of the electrical equipment. As things started to go wrong, he was kind enough to help me work through some faulty lines and to also plug in several hundred cords. You might also see Alex putting our cars back into the driveway every night right when the show ends!

Michael (almost 16) has become a workhorse! Untangles balls of lights that were pulled off the trees, working with some of the theatrical lighting fixtures, and really seems willing to help with the next task on the list. He even helped decorate some of the trees (which is almost always reserved for Bob).

Christopher (8) actually woke up with Jonathan (13) at 3:30am one morning to help screw in light bulbs as I attempted to make one of my many deadlines this season. Both have seemed to settle in with their comfort level helping again this year. They have mastered (as a team) the creation of a “mega ball” – 4 strings of lights (red, green, blue, white) tied together and rolled up again for my use. Big time saver when creating the arches for sure!

Melissa (10), Laura (6), Thomas (3 1/2) and now Bethany (1 1/2) have come up with a remarkable system for sorting extension cords – 6′, 9′, 15′ are the standard lengths, and numerous custom-length cords are piling up for use. Only Thomas didn’t mind staying out when it got really cold though! What a trooper.

Julie is a saint and a support and the love of my life. Like last year, she has already invested off-season time with taking down, sorting, and storing display items from 2009. This year, how does she do it? She actually helped create the “house line” which is a 80 foot arch that we kept straight to line the house. Julie also created some custom strings and made new wreaths this year! What an awesome woman!