Holiday displays have come a long way from the days when you’d pull a few lights from a box, string them on the tree and plug them in.
It’s now often a high-tech endeavor, involving tens of thousands of lights, computerized shows and choreographed music synchronized to radio frequencies. Giant Santas and other characters have joined traditional nativity scenes.
Many of the people who put up the displays say they keep getting bigger each year.
Don and Lisa Monk, 653 N. 58th Ave., West Richland, have built up a 30-song program during the past seven years. It allows people to watch the light show from their cars on radio frequency 89.5 FM for an hour-and-a-half with no repeats.
Don Monk, 50, started programming the light sequences to the songs in March the first year he did it. Back then, he only had about a dozen songs, but has added a couple each year since. Each song takes about two weeks to program, he said.
Another new twist was added this year — a “virtual Santa” can be seen inside Monk’s bedroom window. An image of the jolly old elf is projected onto a screen, showing him moving around the room, drinking milk and eating cookies.
“So far, the kids love it,” he said.
His yard features 17,000 lights on arches and trees. He wants to add more to the display in 2015, but he’s not sure what.
“Every year, I never really know what I’m going to add until the season’s over with,” he said. “I’m kind of running out of room. Actually, I fudge into the neighbor’s yard by a couple of feet.”
Pasco lights a family tradition
The Pasco home of John and Debbie Logan features 8,000 lights, as well as a nativity scene, inflatable versions of Santa and Mrs. Claus, two baby polar bears named Jack and Ellie, and even Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
The lights have been a family tradition, with John Logan, 61, decorating his homes for 30 years.
“My dad always decorated our house,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep up with him.”
The house also features a set of musical bells that play a wide variety of songs, though it doesn’t always seem that way.
“It always seems like when I walk by they’re playing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Logan said.
The display seems to grow each year, though Logan has replaced his old lights with more energy-efficient LEDs. He still has to replace a set or two of those each year.
“They’re a lot more reliable,” he said. “They last a lot longer, but they’re a lot more expensive.”
His favorite decoration remains a classic — lights coming down from his 16-foot-tall flagpole to form a Christmas tree.
Logan admits that he doesn’t have as many lights as Dwight Johnson, who has an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 lights at his Franklin County farmhouse, but then who does?
“I’m not going to try to keep up with him,” Logan said.
Richland lights on Facebook
Mark Showalter started a Facebook page for the display at his home at 1300 Alla Vista St. near the Badger Mountain trailhead in Richland.
The page features dozens of photos of the light display at night and during daylight, and even has video of the lights being tested.
Showalter’s 42,000 lights are synchronized to music, which can be heard by turning a car radio to 89.5 FM between 5 and 10 p.m. weeknights, staying on until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. The songs run from the Peanuts classic Linus and Lucy to the Washington State University fight song.
The display includes numerous lighted arches and trees. Showalter, 53, works on the lights primarily during five weekends starting in September.
A new twist to the display this year is a donation box for the Rotary Foundation.
“We have a very good understanding of the excellent work the Rotary Foundation does locally and around the world,” said Showalter, a member of the Columbia Center Rotary.
Showalter is already coming up with ideas for next year.
“I’m always think about expanding,” he said.
Kennewick home spotlighted
Not everyone is going for thousands of flickering lights.
Frank Cleavenger came up with a unique display of only 12 lights illuminating the outside of his house at 1203 W. 40th Ave. — but they are large floodlights that color his entire two-story home in red, green and blue.
He tried using a few spotlights last year to cover a dark spot on the side of his house. He liked it so much he decided to take it a step further.
“This year, I got nothing but spotlights and put them all over the house,” he said.
The spotlights have a major advantage in that they take only an hour to put up. Cleavenger, 47, spent all day putting up Christmas lights last year, he said.
“The only drawback is you have to do it in the dark, because you have to point and aim the lights,” he said.
In the spirit of the season, and of outdoing himself, Cleavenger plans to bring back the traditional lights next year and combine them with the spotlights.
“I’ll have to work little harder, but I think it will look really cool,” he said.
The most rewarding part of putting up lights comes from the reaction of others, Logan said.
“This year I’ve had people driving by say, ‘Thank you,’ ” he said. “I even got a card from one of our neighbors saying, ‘Thank you.’ ”