Display 2012

Final 2012 Visitor Count: 3315 cars

(blog updates are archived here, pasted above the “regular” display page – scroll down!)

Personal update: 9/9/13

For those family, friends and visitors who haven’t heard yet, our new medical clinic opened up in Eden Prairie last week! We are on Facebook and our clinic website is up and running as well (www.newkingdompediatrics.com). Time to start focusing on laying out plans for the 2013 Christmas display!

Personal update: 8/26/13

What a journey this has been! After 10 great years at Glencoe Regional Health Services, I felt a calling to pursue a more focused pediatric practice caring for children and partnering with parents – focusing on convenience, personal care, and full support of parent choice regarding vaccines, testing options, management styles, and alternative care team members. So we (my wife Julie and I) are opening up New Kingdom Pediatrics! We will be housed in Eden Prairie for the first year or two, with plans to expand to Waconia or further west thereafter.

Display update: 1/06/13

Well, that sure seemed to come and go so quickly! Our family just got back inside from viewing the show the last time. As our annual tradition goes, we all pack into our truck and watch the show for the last 15-20 minutes or so. When it ends at 10pm, that’s it for the season. Thomas is still singing Joy to the World, Melissa totally nailed the harmonies in Silent Night, Laura (bless her heart) pointed out the few parts of the display that were broken wondering if I was going to fix them, and Jonny patted me on the back and said, “Good season dad.” Julie gave me a hug right when I needed it, seeing that look of sadness in my eyes (and I think she needed the hug too). All the glory goes to God for how awesome this season was!! Over 3000 visitors, with our prayers that some came to know Christ through His light and others joined us in worship and preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus. Thank you to our amazing neighbors for putting up with: 6 hrs per night X 51 nights = 306 hours of strobes lights and flood lights and traffic. Not to mention those few nights at 2-3am when a rabbit chewed through a cord causing everything to turn on and randomly blink! So looking forward to next year’s show already – three great songs picked out, and still reflecting on the idea of a special kid’s night or kid’s hour with VeggieTales songs, candy canes, and maybe hot chocolate if I can convince my children to bundle up and sit outside. We’ll see! Stay tuned I guess. Thanks again to everyone who came to share this experience with us!

Display update: 12/31/12

Happy New Year’s eve, praying for blessings for 2013 for all of our friends, family, and visitors to the display. Always bittersweet this time of year, as the cold sets in, the Christmas lights get buried by deeper and deeper layers of snow, and soon we turn off the show for the year. Thanks to Julie though for capturing some videos (which will be posted in the Display 2012 page). Updating one of my dreams for the future, sure would be cool if all of my Christian Christmas Light friends and I could put together a DVD with all of our shows recorded. That would be a pretty neat thing indeed. Then again, it is quite a bit more work to get a DVD-quality video compared to something that is “ok” for web-viewing…Family time tonight and probably a house full of crabby sleep-deprived kids tomorrow! Only 10 months and 2 weeks until the 2013 display starts for the season!

Display update: 12/25/12

Merry Christmas to everyone!! The last few nights have been very busy inside of our home as we prepared for Christmas, and outside of the home with a significant increase in the number of cars coming to see the display. The last two nights there were typically 5-7 cars watching the show with another 5-10 lined up waiting to get in. I wish we could accommodate more people at a time, will give some thought to better traffic control. Such a special thanks, again, to all of our neighbors who sometimes have to wait to get into their own driveways, and occasionally get a “glare” from people watching the show as my neighbors try to get into their own driveways. We are so lucky that they allow us to have the display running for the month! Christmas Eve we enjoyed a celebration with our family, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews and some of the grandparents. Praying my mom will feel better, she needed to miss the Christmas Eve family event due to illness. The children are all now tucked into bed, and (as I type this at about 2:30am) expect them to awaken in 4.5 more hours to start Christmas day. God’s love is already with each and every one of us – though tonight I offer an additional prayer to all family, friends and visitors that we will all be so very aware of His love and His presence in our lives – felt more deeply and persistently than perhaps we ever have felt before. Merry Christmas!!

Display update: 12/20/12

We had quite the special visitor tonight! The Minnetonka Assisted Living facility brought over a bus full of residents to enjoy the show. They didn’t know it, but when I heard they were coming I made sure to get into my “prayer spot” and prayed for the residents while they were here (sitting on our stairs allows me to see past the lights to the cars, perfect view for our prayer support of our visitors). And, as mentioned before, family rule is that anyone walking by the windows checks and also prays for visitors if anyone is out there. Oh, and just checked our website statistics – 6000 visitors so far this month, and over 30,000 for the year. I might have to run a special give-a-way or something as a prize opportunity for those who follow the story of the display and join us in celebrating Christ! Stay tuned, I’ll see if I can think of something fun to offer this weekend.

Display update: 12/19/12

Is it just me, or is time moving by so very quickly? Christmas is almost here! Hopefully everyone is preparing their hearts for Christ, tree for presents, table for cookies, and arms for hugging loved ones. Our family continues to pray for the visitors to the show, including a special friend my wife met tonight when coming home from shopping (Holly – here are the links to the songs in the show: Amy Grant, Toby Mac, and Chris Tomlin, hope the videos turn out ok!). Finally – fun little fact to share… I have narrowed down my list for next year’s show songs to about 20, and have started listening to them while driving and at work. After listening to them so many times, I will able to start visualizing what the lights would be doing if that song were playing… and after that, which 3 songs would work best together to create a show that will allow God’s Light to shine brightest and sing the loudest! A Jason Castro song might very well be my first “top 3” already (Hark The Herald Angels Sing).

Display update: 12/13/12

Freezing, warming, melting, windy, snow. Repeat. So far so good! Just feeling blessed that the melting snow did not get into the electronics, so very cool to be able to look out the window, and while praying for our visitors, also appreciate how well everything is working. I was trying to rush home as fast as I can after work to try and assess the display for problems before it gets too dark, though we’ve had so many sick kids in the clinic that I’m now staying as long as I need to make sure they are receiving the care that they need. Oh, before I forget, thanks to Julie, Jonny, and Michael for helping me change the angle of the LED sign and giving feedback on the speed of the messages – now the radio station (97.7) is displayed in 4 of the 5 messages, and they move in/out faster…. Praying this week regarding an idea that has been on my heart… I want to sponsor a Christian Christmas display contest, either in Waconia (small vision) or in the country (bigger vision!). The idea would be that only displays that put Christ first (either nativity scenes, Christian music, etc) would be allowed to participate. To do it correctly, I will have to develop the concept in more detail and plan for it to start at the beginning of the 2013 decorating season. Stay tuned I guess! Last year one of my neighbors had an awesome life-sized nativity set up for at least a few weeks around Christmas, but I do not see it this year. Hope they set it up again, it was such a nice thing to see as I drove into our neighborhood! Finally, thanks to everyone for all of the kind comments, emails, and even the occasional hand-wave or headlight-flash :). Peace!

Display update: 12/9/12

Oh the snow is just so beautiful! In Minnesota, it is hard to know what to expect each year. Some years we have had most of the display buried, and others nothing more than a dusting of snow. Thanking God for such great weather and safety for our visitors so far this year. My neighbor told me that cars have been pretty respectful regarding blocking driveways, but apparently one person had his car battery fail and was stranded for more than an hour (I was so sorry to hear that, and I apologized to her that he went up to her home instead of ours looking for help). Oh, and freaking out my children for the second year in a row, a visibly intoxicated group of adults came caroling to our neighborhood. It would be sweet and appreciated if it weren’t for seeing my kids run and hide yelling “the drunk carolers are here!” Perhaps next year we will be more prepared and offer some hot chocolate or something for their travels. Finally, my heart seemed to skip a few beats when we saw – estimating – a kaZILLION rabbit tracks in the snow Friday night and even more Saturday morning. With a little anxiety I watched as the show started to make sure none of the computer cords were again mistaken for a twig or grass or whatever they think they are chewing on. Good news, we have had 9 straight error-free nights! After the snow I see falling right now (typing this at 2:15 am, so quiet, so beautiful out there!) we might be safe from any problems unless the snow all melts before Christmas. Melting snow leads to standing water and almost always causes a short circuit. Standing snow covers the cords and the rabbits keep on movin’ without stopping to eat. Oh, and please pray for my light-decorating friend Collin in Winsted – this is his first year adding animation to his display and has had a pretty big string of bad luck with pretty much every problem a display can have happening all within the last few weeks. I admire his commitment to getting everything running. I remember those early years for our family, hoping to turn the show on the day after Thanksgiving, and 2-3 weeks later finding myself struggling to complete the necessary work/repairs.

Display update: 12/1/12

Two things about our Nativity. I noticed a few nights ago the light for baby Jesus had burned out, and totally forgot to change the bulb (ack!). Decided instead of forgetting tonight, I would go out in front of everyone and just replace the bulb, and felt so much better to see that piece lighted again in the center of our display! And, I knew the bulb in the angel was burned out. Burned out last year, and thought I would just leave it dark (it is floating attached to a pole and easily seen without a light). Well, after 11 months of that light not working, tonight the bulb was on again?!!? Interesting, just makes me smile… After watching the show for 30 minutes last night, I recognized a few opportunities for improvements in parts of some songs. I suspect I am the only one who will actually notice that “bush #5 is now fading 3 seconds faster” but at least for now the changes seem more visually appealing. Well, credit where credit is due, both my wife and my son Jonny caught me to point out that the animations of the arches on the right of the yard “just look really weird, like if you have them wired the wrong way or something.” Good for them, they actually caught a mistake in how I had set things up so also corrected those now. A very good friend of mine asked me, “are you actually counting each car?” (in reference to our front-page cumulative visitors count). We count 2-3 times per hour to establish the average cars per show (a show is 3 songs – 5 shows per hour – and with few exceptions cars leave and new ones enter after each show). The show starts at 4pm but cars start arriving closer to 5pm. From 5-6pm there is an average of 1 car per show (5 per hour). From 6-7pm 3 cars per show (15 per hour). Between 7-10 there are an average of 20 cars per hour (4 cars per show). On weeknights this ends up being about 80 per night with an approximately 25% increase on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This weekend is actually slightly ahead of last weekend, and as we gather our data we adjust our total visitors number. Interestingly, at 7pm tonight there were 6 cars watching and a line of 4 waiting to enter. That is quite early for a line to be forming (last year lines did not form until the week before and the week after Christmas). Hopefully cars are leaving a path to my neighbor driveways though, something that has been the only real issue raised by my otherwise very patient and supportive neighbors!

Display update: 11/28/12

Although I am saying this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I feel like changing our scrolling LED sign in the front yard to read, “Now two days without malfunction!” What a wonderful site to see the show working, but more so, the visitors who are experiencing the Light of Christ through the display. In fact, tempted to set up a WaconiaChristmas Twitter account for quick “we’re praying for you!” or “show is down for an hour!” and such. Will have to think about that a bit! Pray for us, as freezing rain seems to be in the forecast this weekend landing on top of any of the vulnerable electronic/cables exposed.

Display update: 11/23/12

I am sure anyone reading these updates will appreciate the suspense of the unfolding story. Truthfully, last night I was at peace even though the display itself seemed irreparable. I suppose every year has its problems with wires or rabbits or water or blizzard or whatever. Today was my “repair” day – so after putting on many more layers of clothes went out to take a look. We have over 60 controller boxes, each connected to 16 “sections” of the display (which gives us the approximately 1000 individually controlled parts of the show). Each box has a power cord, and a computer network cable coming to and leave from the box. If any of these cords have cracked, or nibbled by overnight animal, or pulled because of a child/dog in the yard – portions of the display will malfunction. Total black is probably the best – that is usually just a power or a simple cord problem, and can find it by walking to the part of the show that is not lighting up. The flickering/blinking/strobing sections that randomly turn on/off, that suggests water damage in one of the 60 boxes. Very hard to track down, particularly once ice/snow covers everything. Today we had all three things – cord, water, power causing problems from last night. Just before 5pm, after replacing numerous cords, the last one seemed to set the display back into harmony! As I look out the window tonight, we have had 1-4 cars watching the display at any given time – more than previous years for the first night. There are some things I will need to fix tomorrow – half of one arch is dark, and random strings appear to have come unplugged. However, 90% of the show was working in time for the first car of the year! That is, honestly, amazing to me when I think about how messed up it was just 12 hours ago. Woooo!

Display update: 11/22/12

After enjoying one last day of wonderful weather, we were hit by strong winds early today. It was a quick reminder to me that with the gusting winds, I need to make sure anything that can potentially move is tied down. We use thick wire to hold down the tripods that hold the floodlights (two blew over last year), and the nativity set is staked into the ground. We put garbage bags over the light controllers to protect the circuit boards from the rain/snow – and unfortunately, a little too late this year. Our first test of the lights/songs today showed many random/flickering lights suggestive of water somewhere in the circuit(s). Blah. Will sort through that tomorrow and hopefully have it fixed by the start of the show tomorrow night! On a much brighter note, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!! We had a great day of 1) celebrating God’s blessings and 2) scurrying around to plug in last-minute lights and such. Julie finished all of the arches yesterday (I am so amazed by everything she does!!!) and Jonny/Christopher went out early to finish their tasks. Alex, back from college for the weekend, set up our “mini mega trees” by the garage. Those are his creation and we are so happy to have them as part of our display. Tomorrow should be an interesting day of last-minute fixes!!!

Display update: 11/20/12

For the first time in several years (ok, maybe the first time ever), we remain on schedule for our official start of the season 11/24! Well, honestly, maybe a little behind at this point as Julie has been telling her friends we start on the 23rd – working harder now to try to have it all done a day sooner. We’ll see! Weather has been AMAZING and such a blessing! I remember the years crawling around in the snow the weeks before Thanksgiving, trying to find things I had left in the yard during the decorating process. We were only halfway joking today when we agreed to start decorating in September next year so we can enjoy the time outside as we work. The family has really jumped in and make it a group project for the 2nd year in a row now, so cool! It has been quite something to see each of them develop their decorating skills and perhaps more important, their independence in working on their portions. Years past, “help” usually meant I had to take twice as long teaching one of the kids and then supervising the work. The memories of those years, and the new ones we are creating this year, saved in my heart forever!

The 2012 display has many features in common with previous years. The penguins are taking the year off, but we have added 4 more arches and rebuilt the old ones. This should help add more symmetry to the display, as well as have something fun for visitors to watch as they drive up – the new arches are on the right side of the yard.

Like last year, more than 1000 individual elements are computer controlled using Light-O-Rama hardware and software. For each minute of music, more than 5 hours of computer programming creates the animations again this year! Last year we decided not to count the lights anymore, though the addition of the new arches and a few other items will make the yard a little brighter.

We have 3 songs this year. Traffic in front of the display is getting busy, and my wonderful neighbors can’t even get into their driveways on some nights! The show will run about 11-12 minutes hoping to allow guests an opportunity to see the display, but keep things moving for those waiting as well. Again this year, we are using 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):

O Come, All Ye Faithful – TobyMac

Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy) – Chris Tomlin

I Need a Silent Night – Amy Grant

Even though the family is quite busy, everyone pitches in however they can each year:

– Alex (19) is still out of the home now, living on campus at Crown College studying New Testament and his second major, nursing. He is more busy this year than last, however he is still helping set up the “megatrees” near our garage again. He is our most experienced helper, and things assigned to him are done with attention to detail and typically without error.

– Michael (almost 18) jumped in to help early in the season, plugging in lights prior to our one-night Halloween test show. He has a new job, and preparing his transition into adulthood/college which takes up most of his time now.

– Jonathan (15) is now our tallest child, and is starting to challenge Alex as our most experienced. Like Christopher below, Jonny just never says “no” and will spend hours at a time working independently – which allows me to focus on so many other tasks needing my attention! This year he plugged in more than half of the lights, and has been a tremendous help with problem solving some of the malfunctions along the way. Jonathan update: even more impressed, he continues to help me problem solve, give feedback on certain animations, and checks on the display each night – particularly helpful when I am late coming home from work. He even shoveled the driveway a few times to help out! Thanks Jonny!

Christopher (almost 11) became the project manager for the creation of more “megaballs” – taking red, green, blue, and white strings and wrapping them together so I can more easily decorate bushes/trees. He taught Melissa (12), Laura (8), and Thomas (5) to be his helpers, and created 64 of these in just two days (last year it took the kids much longer). This year Christopher also spent extra time helping Julie rebuild our 8 arches – so when you see the arches dancing to the music, please know they took care of that whole project!

– Bethany (almost 4) still loves coming out to help anytime she can. She is amazing at following directions such as running inside to get more tape or holding cords/lights during the decorating process. I think she may be the most excited of all my girls when it comes to setting up the display.

– Julie gave me the greatest gift this year, she let me leave some of the lights up in the trees which saved me about 8 full days of work this fall! As mentioned above, she has also taken on an enormous task as she rebuilds our arches. Hard for me to admit, but watching her technique taught me a much more efficient way of making them compared to my past years. Julie has also continued to master her video technique, allowing me to get them up onto the website once she captures the show.