If you are looking for something fun to do this holiday season, head over to Tripp Road in Ellington and check out Michael White’s Christmas lights display.
Not only are the lights very pretty and festive, they are synchronized to music that people can hear by tuning their car radios to a certain station. There are also four different shows - each running about 35 minutes in length - so it’s worth going back more than once.
White said that this is his second year doing the light shows.
“Three years ago, my daughter, who was 10 at the time, heard me complaining about not having very much success stringing some simple light strings around my house because the light strands kept burning out,” he said. “She told me I was always a ‘Grinch’ around Christmas and asked why I didn't like Christmas. I didn't want her to remember me being that way so I decided I would do something big and different to embrace the spirit.”
White said that he had seen a television commercial with a house decorated and synchronized to music and thought it would be fun.
“After a lot of online research, I decided to do it,” he said. “There are many sites on the web dedicated to Christmas decorating and they were very helpful. Eventually, I got some software to play with, and experiment with programming. It was time consuming because each song takes around 20 hours to program and synchronize, but I did a little every week throughout the year and also built the display items for the yard.”
Even with how long it takes to program songs, White says he has 35 songs done.
“If the shows and display stays the same, I wouldn't have to do anymore programming but I enjoy it and like to keep the shows fresh, so something will change or be added every year,” he said. “The songs do change. Some people request certain songs and other songs I just kind of get sick of. I have to listen to these songs hundreds of times to get a single song sequence done.... usually in June or July no less.”
White said that sometimes it’s just about tweaking a song because he really can’t see what the lights will look like until it is up and running and he may notice something off.
“This year I added some new display items so I had to program them into the existing sequences,” he said. “The new songs this year had to be done from scratch. There is a learning curve and I am getting better at it. The first song I ever completed I thought was really cool.... and now it’s not in any shows because it is not good.”
The light controllers are from Light-o-Rama and are tied into White’s laptop which tells them when to switch each light string on or off, to fade, or shimmer, or whatever.
White says that he has roughly 400 strings of LED lights and 2.5 miles of extension cords in the yard.
“I decided on LED lights because they last approximately 50,000 hours and are ‘green’ in that they only consume about 1/20th of the power of a regular incandescent light string,” he said. “Because the lights are 95 percent LED lights, my light bill only went up $28 for the month of December last year.”
White wanted to start putting the lights up at the end of October, but the snow storm delayed that for about two weeks.
“Next year, I will start earlier,” he said. “Had some late, dark nights at the end of November this year.”
The shows started on Dec. 1 this year, but White says that with any luck, they will start during Thanksgiving weekend next year.
White has set up a box across from his house – where people can park and watch the show – to collect donations for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“The first year running the show was a hit with friends and neighbors,” he said. “I was expecting maybe a couple cars per show, but towards Christmas, it grew by word of mouth to over 100 each night. Friends told me that I should collect for charity because of the volume of people so we decided on St. Jude Children’s Hospital for this year. To date this year, we have raised close to $900 – which I am also very surprised at. The people coming are very generous.”
White says he has also received many notes and letters from people who have enjoyed the show.
The shows run Thursday through Sunday at 6 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8 p.m. and are all weather permitting.
“Rain is not good for the hundreds of connections outside,” White said.
The shows will continue until Dec. 30.
“I need a few weekends to get the display back inside before it's too cold or snowy,” White said.
White’s home has also been entered into Patch’s Deck the House Contest so be sure to check it out.