Season Of Lights And Sound

Published 7:00 pm Friday, December 16, 2011

It takes lots of extension cords.


    “I couldn’t begin to guess how many feet of extension cord thereare,” said Carey Williamson. “But if I had to guess, I would sayaround 4,000 feet.”

    Carey and his wife Celeste use those 4,000 feet of extension cordsto power the approximately 60,000 lights in their annual Christmaslight display.

    With the Williamsons’ light display, though, the show doesn’treally begin until the music starts. That’s when the lights startto dance.

    The entire light display is motion synchronized to eight songs theWilliamsons broadcast from a low-power radio transmitter. For thosedriving by, enjoying the show is as simple as tuning in to 87.9FM.

    The house is located at 632 Tanglewood Drive. Sunday throughThursday, the lights run from 5:15 until 9:30 p.m. and from 5:15until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

    “We try to be sensitive to the neighbors,” Carey Williamson said.”And our kids don’t like to go to sleep while the lights arerunning.”

    The annual dancing light spectacle goes live on Black Friday andruns until New Year’s Eve. During the week leading up to Christmas,the lights will run up until 10 p.m. That week is the peak oftraffic.

    “People always ask how many come by, but there’s really no way toknow,” Carey Williamson said.

    This winter, the Williamsons are celebrating their fifth year toput up the synchronized lights.

    “Some people golf, some people hunt. We spend our money onChristmas lights,” said Celeste Williamson. “But it’s good becausethe whole family can get involved.”

    Their house light display has become quite an attraction.

    “There’s traffic every night,” Celeste Williams said.

    The couple wants to use their holiday attraction for a goodcause.

    Last year, they began taking donations for Parent Project MuscularDystrophy, a nonprofit organization focused on Duchenne MuscularDystrophy. The couple has a donation box by their mailbox wherecontributions can be placed.

    Last year, the couple brought in $2,200 in donations for theorganization and hopes to surpass that number this year.

    An elaborate Christmas lights display takes some time to putup.

    The Williamsons’ display takes about 20 hours, which the couplespreads out over four days. Taking them down is usually a brieferprocess.

    Most of the work, though, comes before the lights ever go up.There’s nothing special about the lights themselves.

    “They’re just Wal-Mart lights,” Carey Williamson said.

    Carey Williamson has to connect the lights to special dimmer boxes,which themselves are controlled by a computer. Carey Williamson hasto manually use a computer program to specify when the lights blinkon and off.

    He estimates it takes about 2-3 hours per minute per song toprogram the light shows.

    “Setting up every year we ask ourselves why?” Carey Williamsonsaid. “But nights like tonight with people lined up saying ‘thankyou, thank you,’ it’s worth it.”

    The Williamsons got some company this year.

    Alan and Stephanie Mumbower live down the street from theWilliamsons and decided last year to get in on the light action.Through a wireless signal, the Mumbowers’ lights move in sequenceto the same songs as the Williamsons’.

    “We originally did them because Stephanie just loves Christmaslights,” Alan Mumbower said.”

    For the Williamsons, the project began when the saw a televisionprogram about synchronized light shows. Carey Williamson, whoteaches electronics at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, felt achallenge.

    “I said, I can do that,” Care Williamson said.

    And despite the complexity and many hours behind their display, theWilliamsons’ continuing motivation is similar to theMumbowers’.

    “We like Christmas lights,” they said.