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Christmas Lights Craze: Local Families’ Holiday Displays Shine Bright


Twinkling lights, sparkling snowflakes, festive inflatables, and roaming reindeer–ahh, the signs of the holidays drawing near! But for some families, simple decorations are just not enough. They take decorating a step further and turn their homes into mind blowing displays complete with dancing lights set to popular holiday tunes or–in true Louisiana fashion–the LSU Fight Song.

Local families the Hohensees, the Clarks, and the Johnsons are known for creating these eye-catching displays every year. And each year, their displays get bigger and better, attracting families from all over the city who have made it their family tradition to watch the must-see shows.

 

Hohensee Family Christmas Lights  |  12625 Sullivan Road  |  Central, LA 70818

See the lights: December through January 8 from 6 p.m. to midnight

James Hohensee and his family have been creating their impressive display since 2010, and each year, it gets a little bigger and brighter. After watching a commercial featuring two houses in a Christmas lights duel, James was hooked. He immediately began researching how he could turn his static display into an animated one. But it didn’t stop there! James has since turned his hobby into a business where he creates one-of-a-kind holiday pieces. And, the family’s display will even be featured on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight this year.

How many lights do you have on your display?

JH: We use pixels and that makes things a little harder to quantify, but the display uses over 180,000 channels. Each pixel or bulb is a red, green, and blue LED. We can mix the intensity of each color to make any color of the rainbow.

Do you try and make the display larger each year?

The display grows each year. This year, we added a snowman to represent each member of our family. Each snowman has characteristics that reflect each child such as music, sports, or a Tinkerbell Fairy Princess with a crown. We also continue to upgrade various elements of the display such as the star that sits atop the 40’ MegaTree. Last year, we had a 3’ traditional star and this year we have an 8’ 3D star that is one of a kind.

What’s the electric bill like?

While LEDs help keep the operating cost down, when you have this many lights, it still runs our monthly electric bill up an additional $60-75 each week the show is on.

What encourages you to keep putting together this display?

Our show has always been about getting the community together. Where else can you go and spend 30 minutes with your family doing something that they all enjoy for free?

Were you affected by the flood?

Yes, we did flood, but mostly in our shop which is also our home-based business, and in the lower portion of the house.

What made you want to do it again this year?

This year was especially challenging because we have been selected to participate in ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight. But, when the flood came, we initially said we were not doing a display this year. We had flooded, our business had flooded, and our livelihood was now in question. We knew we had a lot of work to do ahead of us. I asked myself, “How do I justify spending the amount of time, labor, and money it takes putting up Christmas lights when I could be helping others get their lives back together?”

After the flood, I was in the hardware store talking to another patron, and we were talking about how much water we both got. When he asked where I lived, I simply stated I was the house on Sullivan Road with the Christmas lights, and his mood just changed. He expressed how much he and his family loved the lights, and that was really the turning point for us to do the lights this year. But, I couldn’t have done it without some really good friends and family who helped make it all happen this year.

And, if you’re planning to see the lights:

Tune your radio to 105.9FM. Cars can park on the school driveway across the street, and in the turning lane that leads into the school. The family can fit about 80 cars at a time. The Hohensees also have a guestbook set up that they encourage the guests to sign. This year, any donations will go to families who have flooded.

 

Clark Family Christmas  |  8757 Elliot Road  |  Baton Rouge, LA 70817

See the lights: December through January 1

For anyone in the Baton Rouge area, one common question that often gets asked around this time of year is, “Have you seen the Christmas lights on Elliot?” Darryl and Ashley Clark began creating their unique display as something for their children. It has since turned into a hobby, and has even gone viral among LSU fans when the family programmed their lights to LSU’s Fight Song.

How many lights do you have on your display?

DC: This year, we will have approximately 40,000 lights.

Do you try and make the display larger each year? We try to change something each year. It could be an element of the display or a new song. One year, we added the song, “Let it Go,” and video to our display. This year, with the flood, we will probably not have the video working, but we have added RGB lighting. RGB lighting has allowed me to reduce the actual number of lights, but gives me more colors and programming possibilities. I am also working on a new song.

When did you start creating the display?

When Ashley and I got married 21 years ago, our first home was in a neighborhood where everyone decorated with static lights. That is how I started. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering from LSU and started using computerized lights in 2006. I started with 16 channels. This year, I will have 144 channels with incandescent and LED lights, and 24 channels of RGB lights.

How long does it take to put the display together?

I normally start working on the new elements six months before Christmas. We try to have everything up in October so I can test everything before Thanksgiving. One song takes me up to 40 hours to program. My oldest son, Billy, is now doing the sound bites for our introduction, and he puts the videos together for me. Ashley is my biggest helper, but Billy and Josh always help us setup.

What’s the electric bill like?

It’s not bad at all because the lights are not all on at the same time, and a lot of them are LED lights.

What encourages you to keep putting together this display?

Hearing kids scream from their cars at our virtual Santa makes it all worth it. One year, I received a Christmas card from a family thanking us. Their grandmother had passed away, but they all came to the show together before then and it was a great memory for them. Every year at this time, people start asking about the lights. My wife and I often remind each other how many people are counting on us to continue the tradition.

 

Lighting Up Zachary  |  5323 Knight Drive  |  Zachary, LA 70791

See the lights: December through New Year’s Day from 6 p.m. to midnight

After many hours of searching the web, reading on forums, and watching YouTube videos, Nick Johnson finally figured out how to create a dazzling holiday display featuring lights synched to music. And from there, the rest was history. Nick and Amber Johnson have been putting their display together since 2012, and this year, the family will be collecting donations for the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation (LPCF) and Nobles and Nomads.

How many lights do you have on your display each year?

NJ: We started with a few thousand lights and each year, it grows. Currently, we have around 45,000 lights in our display. We try to make the display larger each year because that’s what makes it fun.

How long does it take to put the display together?

365 days! When I take down the display during the first week of January, I start working on the design for the next season’s display.

What’s the electric bill like?

The electric bill does not increase much, maybe $25 for the month. Ninety percent of my display is LED, and because the lights are constantly turning on and off, there is not a huge demand for continuous power consumption.

What encourages you to keep putting together this display?

The joy that the show brings to the community each year, and seeing a child’s face glowing as they stare and watch the show. It means a lot to me for children to be happy during this time of year.

What made you want to partner with LPCF and Nobles and Nomads?

One of our family members suffers from a congenital heart defect, and LPCF made it possible for her to go to Boston for the surgery and get the medical attention she needed. Not long after that, our oldest son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), which is a heart defect that required a procedure and implant to fix. This made us more aware of how many families are affected by heart conditions and what the LPCF does for these families.

Nomads and Nobles is run by close family friends. We support their mission and cause for what they do in our communities and in the world. Donations can be dropped off in the locked collection box in the front yard each night or mailed to us. ■

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01 Dec 2016


By Amanda Miller

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