Why on earth do you do this?

At first we thought it would be something different.  We had the different colored lights, the chasing lights, the blowups, the blow molds, you name it, but it was all too ordinary. 

In 2006 when we experimented with our first lights to music display, we discovered that it brought the spirit back within not only our family, but others as well. 

As a kid growing up, some of our fondest memories come from the days of the family decorating the tree for Christmas or driving around looking at lights on houses.  Now, we see the happiness and joy our lights bring to others and their families.  When we create a smile on someone's face, we feel we have also created a life long memory, which we feel is priceless. 

Years from now, someone is going to say something like,  “remember that house with all those lights dancing to music we use to go see as a family?”.  

Hopefully that thought will bring a smile to at least 1 person's face.  I am pretty sure someone will call us weird or something, but oh well. 

Over the years we have gone outside and talked to some of the families in their vehicles and almost every person we talked to thanked us.   Not because we put up lights, but because we brought happiness to their children or loved ones.  We brought back some of those fond memories of their own childhood and created memories for not only the children, but the adults as well. 

With all that said, we do this because it brings out the Christmas spirit and happiness, as well as creates memories that will last a lifetime.

 

How many lights do you have?

In 2006 I think we only had about 15,000 lights, in 2007 we had a little over 22,000 lights...2010 we had more than 70,000!  As you can see, the amount of lights kept growing each year, until 2011.... When we first introduced our CCR tree in 2011, we reduced the amount of lights we use in the show because of the amount of space the new CCR tree occupied.  We also didn't want to block the view of the new CCR tree or anything behind the CCR tree, so we eliminated lights from the show.  With the new CCR tree stand we built in 2013, we will be able to start adding more lights in future setups. In 2015 we had just under 40,000 lights.  In 2016, we are targeting for more lights as we transition to all LEDs.

 

When do you start setting up?

Over the years we have learned that it takes much more time than we originally thought it would take to set everything up.  We continue to learn new ways to store our display items for faster setups the next year, so over the years, we have actually gradually decreased our setup times.  When you add something new or try and change your display each year, setup times increase.  In years past, we normally started setting up our display right after Halloween.  In 2013 we waited until after Thanksgiving and soon realized it was a bad idea to wait so long.  That year we ran into a bunch of electrical and mother nature issues.  So, we now try and start right after Halloween.  This way, if we come accross issues, we will have time to resolve them before "Go Live" the first week of December.

 

How long does it take to setup the display?

In years past, it would take us anywhere from three to four weeks, depending on if everything went as planned, which never seemed to happen.  The weather in the Midwest during the month of November is very unpredictable and causes the most issues during setups.  Water, ice or snow on a steep sloped roof is a fall off the roof waiting to happen.  Now, we usually start with the roof of the house right after Halloween, which usually takes about 2 days.  After the roof is completed, we usually put up the Mega and the CCR trees, so that we can dig in the ground before the ground starts freezing.  The base of each tree is placed in a 2' deep hole for added support.  Both of these trees use to take days each to put up. Now it only takes 1 day to put up both.  After the 2 big trees, we take about 2 more days to put the lights on the front of the house and then throughout the yard.  Last, we spend about 1 day putting out the controllers and daisy chaining them together with cat5 cable.  Please note, these times include the running of all electrical cords.

So, it now takes about 1 week to put up the display.

 

When is the display turned on?

We normally shoot for the first week of December.

 

How much electricity is used? (Biggest Question we get asked)

Everyone asks me about our electric bill and how bad it is.  It actually doesn’t use as much electricity as if you had a static display.  Pulses of electricity are being sent through the lines instead of a constant current, like a static display uses.  I created a spreadsheet to watch how many amps are being sent through each connection so I don’t overload any circuits and blow breakers.   During setup I do reads on each circuits to make sure I don't go over 13 amps. I have a 24 (15 amps each) breaker subpanel from which I power the display from.  In the years past I use to use C9, C6 and mostly miniature lights, which was drawing many many amps.  LEDs draw sooooo much less amperage, and this is one of the reasons I have begun migrating to LEDs. Other's electric bills are higher because they have their lights on constantly for hours.  We send pulses of electricity for 5 hours. 

 

What kind of lights do you use?

I mainly use Mini incandescent Lights since they use less amperage and I can fit more on a circuit.  I do also use C6 bulbs around the roof of the house, but have gotten away from C9 bulbs, rope lights and flood lights because of the amps they draw.  LED is the way to go right now because they draw the least amps and don't get hot, but they are very expensive.  

Who pays for all of this?

The Weber Family, this is our gift to you.

 

Do you collect money for donations?

We are looking to set up a donation box for a local charity, any ideas, please email them to us.  We would like to make a local child’s (or children’s) Christmas special and memorable if all possible. 

 

Who designs and installs the display?

I (Dave) design and install the outside display, while Tina designs and installs the inside displays. I (Dave) create almost all the sequences associated to the music.   

 

How long does it take to create a musical sequence (lights to the music)?

It can be very time consuming, I would say anywhere between 6 and 20 hours per song, depending how good you want it to look.  Time to create a sequence depends alot on the song.  If the song has many changes in beats and rhythms, and is over 3 minutes long, it is a very, very time consuming process.  Even a very basic 1 minute song can easily take roughly 6 hours or more to create. 

 

What software do you use?

I use Light O Rama software and controllers.  I also use a program to create a virtual light show of how our lights will look before we even hang them on the house or place them in the yard.   It is a very powerful program that will let us see what the lights will look like in motion to music before we hang them.  This virtual software that I use, helps to reduce set up times a great deal.

 

Do you design/install displays for others?

For a fee I will work with a home owner to design their display and/or create sequences for their show.  Due to liability issues, I will not install or setup other's displays, but will consult with them if needed.  

 

How does the music get to the car radio?

We use an FM Transmitter to send the music to your car radio from a computer.  Due to FCC regulations, the transmitter can only send the music to a short distance.  The distance we get from our transmitter is only about 300 feet at the most.  The distance to the street from our transmitter is roughly about 75 feet.  This is why you lose the music as you drive away. 

 

What do the neighbors think?

Well, so far I think all the neighbors enjoy the lights to the music.   I think the only thing that may upset the neighbors is when they are trying to get into or out of their driveways during the shows.   No neighbors have complained, we have some awesome neighbors!  

You worry about vandalism?

I really didn't until I noticed a bunch of my lights not working one night a few years back.  When I looked at the light strands in the yard, it looked as though someone cut a bunch of the strands.  As I was getting more and more upset while pulling the strands off the ground, I noticed something that looked kind of funny on the last strand I was about to pull.  The edge of the wire had a jagged look to it in the area it was cut, then something on the ground caught my eye, it was rabbit droppings.  I then looked closer and could see rabbit tracks in the areas of all the wires that had been cut.  For some reason, the rabbit was only hungry for the green low gauge wires.  This year the rabbits cut some mini light cords, a cat 5 cable, 6 LED cords and 2 of our CCR lights.  I expect to find burnt rabbit someday, but haven't so far....   This past summer we had some cars broken into in the neighborhood, so I have decided to install some surveillance cameras just in case.