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Taking Christmas lights to the next level

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, at 6:15 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, at 12:12 p.m.

Photos

Wichitans channel Clark Griswold with Christmas lights

Many Wichitans are producing elaborate animated Christmas light displays at their homes using computer software. Video by Denise Neil.

Wichita’s top animated light displays

Following is a look at some of Wichita’s most popular dancing, musical light displays. To see them all in action, watch a video on Kansas.com.

Lights on Barrington,7507 W. Barrington, near 21st and Ridge: Dave Williams, with the help of his wife, Mindy, has created a display that features 40,000 lights dancing to songs such as “Winter Wonderland.” Visitors can hear the music through their car radios as they watch, and they can make donations for Make-A-Wish. The show will run from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 27. For more information, visit “Lights on Barrington” on Facebook.

Lights on Lawrence Court, 1122 N. Lawrence Court, near 13th and Woodlawn: Brad Short and Scott Lawrence have one of Wichita’s largest Christmas display, which features 300,000 lights and many of the decorations that once decorated the Wey Mansion on Park Place. (Short bought the light several years ago.) Their show includes music broadcast over the radio and a collection for Children’s Miracle Network. It runs from dusk until 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and dusk to 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and will be up through New Year’s Eve. Santa will be greeting visitors at the display on the evenings of Dec. 20, Dec. 21 and on Christmas Eve.

Marshall Family Christmas Lights , 620 N. Stratford Lane, near Central and Rock: This display, run by Mark Marshall, his wife and their eight children, covers the family’s large home with 100,000 dancing Christmas lights choreographed to songs selected and approved by family matriarch Susie Marshall, including classics such as “Oh Holy Night.” It runs from dusk until 10:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from dusk to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The Marshalls accept donations for The Lords Diner and St. Anthony Family Shelter. It’ll be up until the weekend after New Year’s. Information, https://www.facebook.com/MarshallFamilyChristmasLights.

Lights on Millwood, 1812 S. Millwood, near Seneca and Pawnee: Mark Benoit runs this display, which he likes to inject with touches of humor, such as singing windows. One of his favorites is “The Christmas Can-Can” by Straight No Chaser. Benoit has almost 100,000 dancing lights and raises money for Camp Hope. It runs from 6 to 10 p.m. daily through New Year’s Eve.

Lights on Longview Lane, 3805 Longview Lane, near Kellogg and Hillside: Clayton Gossett’s house has 31,500 lights on it, all synced to funky, electronica Christmas carol mashups mastered by a musician friend. He’s running the show from 6 p.m. to midnight nightly through the second week of January.

Christmas at the McKinneys, 1462 S. Coolidge, near 13th and Woodrow in Riverside: Steve McKinney put up his display almost seven years ago, and it’s just kept growing. It grew so much that he asked his next-door-neighbor if he could spread it on to his property, too. Now, the 100,000-light animated display, which features 24 different programmed songs, is a Wichita favorite. It runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays until the weekend after New Year’s. Money raised from donations is split between the Kansas Humane Society and InterFaith ministries.

Other animated displays

Here’s a list of other homeowners who have big light displays set to music.

Titus family show, 1850 S. Battin (Oliver and East Mount Vernon): Musical display by Gary and Cindy Titus featuring more than 28,000 lights that spreads onto neighborhing house. Includes joke-telling Rudolph and a different show every three nights.

Lights on David, 409 N. David (West Central and 119th): Animated show by Terry and Kim Flory, who also do a big Halloween show. Lights are on from 5:30 to 9 p.m. weeknights, until 10 p.m. on weekends through Dec. 26.

Lights on Ninth, 3821 W. Ninth (West Street and Zoo Boulevard): Musical light display set to 16 different songs. Information and video, http://9thstreetlights.weebly.com

Lights on Sycamore, 4620 S. Sycamore (Seneca and 47th Street South): Display by Harding family.

11608 Cedar Lane, Maize (119th Street West and 45th Street North): Animated show that encompasses two houses.

6726 W. Ocieo St., (Ridge and 45th Street North): Animated show by Josh and Millie Clyborne with 14,050 lights and seven musical sequences.

Lights on Gold, 5336 S. Gold (55th Street South and Seneca): Animated display by Matt Robertson that uses 12,000 lights. www.lightsongold.com

Christmas Lights on Morning Dove, 14921 Morning Dove, Clearwater: Show designed by Cody Hanna, Clearwater High freshman.

Magic of Christmas, 143 E. Fourth St., Goddard: Animated show by homeowner Eric Bader that features a giant Christmas tree, a train, snowman and more.

301 Stearns Ave., Haysville (71st and Seneca): Display designed by Kenneth Ault with lights dancing to music that includes and old western town-front and candy canes for visitors. Santa will be present on Friday. Free pictures.

Not animated but still awesome

And here’s a list of some reader-nominated houses where the lights don’t dance but are still dazzling.

Candy Cane Lane, 1000 block of Azure Circle (119th and Central): A group of neighbors have banded together to create a long lane of lighted houses.

628 N. Flora (Central and I-235): Big display featuring Santa, Snoopy and Frosty the Snowman

126 S. Ashley Park Ct., 105 N. Ashley Park Ct., 202 N. Ashley Park (Maple and Ridge)

569 N. Rutland (Central and Rock): display by Bob and Diane Moore.

12601 W. 71st St., Clearwater: House covered with more than 100,000 white lights, lawn is filled with statues, decorations, Nativity scene, gingerbread house and sleigh

1602 W. Browning St., Andover

820 James, Maize: Red and white light display

10813 SW Tawakoni Road, Augusta: 40,000 lights covering four acres, including fire-breathing sea monster, Santa’s workshop, and 25-foot tree. From the Andover/54 intersection continue east for 4 miles.

Denise Neil

Poor Clark Griswold. He was born too early.

Fans of the classic movie “Christmas Vacation” remember that his quest to coat his house in Christmas light so plentiful that they were visible from space was an exercise in extension chords, frustration and citywide power outages.

But that was 1989.

In 2013, modern Clark Griswolds take a much more streamlined, high-tech approach. Thanks to computer technology, these illumination artists can not only ignite every square inch of their houses with lights, they also can make those lights dance to music broadcast on their own radio stations.

Wichita is home to a growing number of such artists, who over the past several years have amassed thousands of dollars’ worth of technology and lights, which they obsessively turn into elaborate Christmas light displays that that cause nightly traffic jams on residential streets from east to west, north to south.

Wichita’s group of Griswolds are local men, many of whom engineer and build things in their real lives. Most say they started their holiday hobbies after admiring other people’s work. All say that once they started, they couldn’t stop.

Among them is Dave Williams, the mastermind of Lights on Barrington at 7507 W. Barrington. His house, in the center of a neighborhood near 21st and Ridge, is covered in 40,000 lights that flash and flicker to the beat of several classic Christmas songs.

Putting displays like his together take time, dedication and cash, he said. He’s been collecting pieces of the display for six years, which is how long the display has been up and running. He’s not sure how much he’s spent on the display over the years but guesses that he drops between $3,000 and $5,000 a year.

The displays are created using special software and kits that are controlled by a computer. A basic starter kit costs around $350, lights not included. The display builders attach various lights to their houses, roofs, trees and landscaping. Many create their own structures, too, from wire Christmas trees to arches made of PVC pipe.

The kits come with controllers, each of which can accept about 16 plug-ins. The computer software allows the designers to program how and when the lights attached to each plug in will flash, and they can sync the shows to their music of choice. Depending on a designer’s level of experience, it can take between 40 and 100 hours to program a single song. Assembling the light display takes even longer. Most start putting lights up by Halloween.

Most of Wichita’s display builders broadcast the music onto a radio station, which can be heard only within the vicinity of the house. They post signs instructing visitors where to tune their car radios, and many are accepting donations for charity. Williams’ charity of choice is Make-A-Wish, and he manages to collect about $1,000 a year.

Williams said that he’s motivated by the positive reactions he gets from people who visit his display. Last weekend, he said, he looked out the window and saw three buses parked outside, filled with people watching his masterpiece.

He’s also encouraged by his neighbors, who could grow impatient with the constant traffic or annoyed at the late-night daylight coming in their windows. But Williams’ neighbors love what he does, he said.

“We’ve got one of the best neighborhoods in Wichita,” he said. “In fact they bought me a Clark Griswold hockey jersey this year. I kind of wanted one, and they chipped in and got it.”

The popularity of elaborate animated displays might have something to do with the advent of the LED Christmas light, said Clayton Gossett, who has been putting up a display at his house at 3805 Longview Lane, near Kellogg and Hillside, for the past seven years.

When he first put up displays, he didn’t use LED lights and received a few power bills that “were probably a little shocking.”

But LED lights are so inexpensive to run that even with his 31,500-light display that covers his entire yard, he doesn’t notice any difference in his power bill.

Gossett, a home remodeler whose side job is drumming in local bands, describes himself as a hobbyist whose nature is to “go bigger and better every year on things that I do.” His display on his two-story house has grown and grown. This year, he erected a 40-foot pole in his front yard, which he designed into a light-strand Christmas tree that’s the center of his display.

This year, he also enlisted the help of a musician friend in Denver, who recorded a funky, 12-minute long track of electronica Christmas carol mashups that give Gossett’s display a distinctly modern feel.

“The other night, I came home, and the party buses were out there,” he said. “I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ I’ve also seen people dancing in the street. I saw a couple get out of their truck and just start dancing in the street.”

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