It’s that time of year again when many people put up their holiday decorations and lights. Megawatt displays have been around for a long time, but the dazzling dancing synchronized light displays were only born about five years ago. Some people want to win a holiday lighting contest, while others decorate with such flair to spread Christmas cheer and delight audiences of all ages. So before you whip out the Bah Humbug at the thought of putting up your tree and taking your holiday decorations outdoors, stop to smell the gingerbread roses and in childlike wonder watch some the best megawatt holiday displays in America.
Christmas Lights Gone Wild
(image credit=rates to go)
Believe it or not, the house with steady burning holiday lights consumes much more electricity than these synchronized flashing lights. Over five million viewers on youtube alone have watched this video. The rough quality of the video led some viewers to believe it was put together in stop-action form from still photographs, but that is an artifact of the high compression used in the clip circulated via e-mail.
Carson Williams, a Mason, Ohio, electrical engineer was one of the pioneers of megawatt dancing holiday displays. In 2004, he spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that controlled the 16,000 Christmas lights in his annual holiday lighting spectacular. He posted instructions for recreating his “Wizard in Winter” sequencing and the rest is history. These megawatt holiday extravaganzas spread like a happy disease around the world.
Hallum’s House Of Lights Computerized
(image credits: Hallums House of Lights)
The Hallum’s House of Lights used over 155,000 Christmas lights last year. Each large tree display had between 20,000 and 30,000 lights. There are 40 mini trees, strobe lights and “leaping” arches. Synchronizing the display alone takes over 50 hours. They use two miles of extension cords. It takes two dozen circuits for the lights and the display pulls over 360 amps of power when all the lights are on at 100% intensity.
Holdman Christmas Lights
The Holdman family also have around 150,000 lights in their display. However, their light display is 100% wind powered, meaning they replace the power used for their Christmas display back onto the grid with wind turbines. Last year, they had 17 dedicated circuits to power everything. Additionally, the Holdman family stated that they use less electricity by using animated, blinking lights, than many smaller lighted displays with the power constantly “ON”.
Mini Tree Extravaganza
This house orchestrated a mini-tree extravaganza.The lights are synchronized to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music, one of the most popular bands for setting up computerized Christmas displays. The song is called, “Queen Of The Winter Night”. Instead of blasting music into the surrounding neighborhood, most people who setup such huge and complex holiday light displays use a specific radio station that passing cars can tune into for the full synchronized effect.
Frisco Christmas Lights
In Frisco, Texas, a home with about 75,000 lights which are computer controlled and synchronized to music continues to move “up a level” each year. Their lights are synchronized to several songs which are broadcast to passing vehicles over a low-power FM transmitter. They go to all this work lighting up the Frisco night sky in December so others will enjoy the light show. However if appreciative people want to help, they ask for donations of canned goods for their local food bank. This video was of their display last year using “Wizards in Winter”.
Sawyer Family 2008 Christmas Display
The Sawyer family goes about their holiday display with a techno groove. In this video for last year’s display, they show the introduction and the first two songs in their 2008 animated Christmas display in Angelton, Texas. Sawyer used a dozen 20-amp, 120-volt dedicated circuits for this dancing display which last almost 12 minutes. They don’t mind the outrageous electric bill as they view this as them spreading Christmas cheer. Mr. Sawyer has said he’d like to win the Griswald Award for their display with over 25,000 lights.
Crooks Christmas Lights – Two Houses!
Can you imagine needing traffic control for a lighted holiday display? What would make it worth hundreds of hours of planning and setup work, and hundreds of individual channels of computer controls spread across two houses? Well in Crooks, South Dakota, they do it for more than bringing joy to those who see the light show. “In the true spirit of Christmas, we want to use this display to bring good fortune to someone who is less fortunate. Therefore, we have decided to collect donations from this display to Adopt Wishes from the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of South Dakota. What a better way to encompass the spirit of Christmas than to make a Child’s dream come true!” Crooks Christmas has raised over $73,000 for Make-A-Wish since inception.
42,000 Christmas LEDs Dance to Coca Cola Holiday Song
(image credit: Lauderdale Christmas)
This family has it down to a science. They save their collapsible mega-tree from the year before. Then a cherry picker lift pulls up the top of the mega-tree from above, with all the lights still intact. The top of the mega-tree has “rat’s nest” with a Plexiglas sheet on top of the tree to protects all the plugs from rain. Last year, their Christmas light display had over 61,000 lights, all of them LED, not a single string of incandescent Christmas lights in the entire display.
Saks 5th Ave NYC Snowflake Christmas Light Show
(image credit=rates to go)
Each year, Saks Fifth Avenue features whimsical holiday window displays. Saks decorates more than their store windows. Christmas in New York means a trip down Fifth Avenue to look at and to listen to the beautiful and dynamic musical light display at Sak’s.
Ochre Christmas Light Show
Ochre has created a fun computer animated Christmas light show done with a techno version of “Jingle Bells” for a house located in Valencia, California. It’s close to an elementary school, but you can be sure that kids of all ages get a kick out of this holiday light display.
Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Once upon a time, the Osborne’s of Arkansas were huge on celebrating the holidays. So huge that the Osbornes purchased the property adjacent to their own as their display grew to millions of lights. “Bah humbug,” growled the residents, displeased by the traffic jams and determined to shut this show down for good. But Mickey Mouse stepped in and moved this terrific light show to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Last year, there were over 4 million Christmas lights and Florida “snow” fluttering down to the delight of all those who could hear the holiday tunes and see the dazzling spectacle of dancing lights.
Coco Jambo Christmas Lights
In Pittsburgh, over 260,000 happy holiday lights, plastic figures, nativities, wire frames and animated themes twinkle and dance amongst six miles of extension cords. That’s what it takes for over 170 blow-molds, 128 computer controlled channels for a show that features six songs and lasts for a half hour. It takes between 10 and 50 hours to sequence each song. All donations go to the Children’s Hospital Research Center.
Look Behind the Scene of Holiday Light Display
Here’s a look behind the scenes of setting up a synchronized holiday light display. You’ll see a mound of lights, computer controls and what appears to be miles of extension cords. This video will also give you a glimpse into the heart of why some people go to all this work for others.
Ready, Set, Decorate!
(image credits= New York Tours, Harper Collins, waymarking)
Loosen up. On your mark, get set, go! Whether you are doing it for yourself, your neighbors, a good cause, or kids, have fun this year. If possible, perhaps look into solar-powered holiday lights or an alternate way to produce electricity. Otherwise, these megawatt displays will require you to loosen up your grip on a handful of green cash. The greenest way to go is to turn off the holiday light displays when you are not home or not in the room. It’s once a year, people, please relax and have fun. Before you get your knickers in a twisted knot at the megawatt displays, consider this: aren’t those flatulating cows harming the environment more?