Spirit of JacksonvilleREAD ONLINE
Cabot family continues holiday lights traditionOriginally Published December 20, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 19, 2012 at 11:19 a.m.
CABOT Visitors to the Guptill family home bewarned: You’ll want to watch your step.
With more than 30,000 lights and miles of extension cords, what was once just a small front yard is now the stage for a 14-minute light and video holiday event.
For the past three holiday seasons, Randy Guptill has spent nearly every weekend in November building the intricate display, complete with a wreath-encased video projector screen. The father of two had always put up a big
display, outlining the roof and driveway with lights. But after seeing videos on animated Christmas displays going around the Internet in 2009 and 2010, he wanted to take his family’s display to the next level.
“I usually start working on it the first weekend of November, so the show is ready after Thanksgiving,” Guptill said.
The show already has such a draw with local residents that when Guptill was a few weeks late turning on this year’s display, a few people would sit out front and honk before driving off disappointed.
“They really needed that Christmas light fix,” Guptill said with a laugh.
Guptill’s display is inspired by the work of Richard Holdman, whose massive home displays are often passed around online. The lights at the Guptills’ are controlled through a software program called Light-O-Rama that sends signals to dimmer switches hooked to the various light displays in the yard. Timed to a music program that the Guptill family put together, Christmas trees and light poles in the yard flash and flare to the beat. In the back, a video screen displays clips from holiday and kids movies and Santa occasionally pops up to help direct the show. Rather than wake the neighbors, music for the show is pumped out through an FM radio station that can be tuned in on car radios as they drive by.
At the beginning of each show, the voice of Guptill’s daughter Bryce comes on to give instructions for those watching, including dimming lights and staying out of the middle of the road. Guptill’s daughter Kendal’s voice ends the program, making the whole event a family affair.
“I was going to do the voiceovers myself, but my wife said my voice might scare people off,” Guptill said in his naturally low tone. “I’d sound too much like Barry White.”
As it gets close to Christmas, Guptill said the line of cars parked outside is constant. At times, up to seven or eight cars can be sitting outside waiting.
“Our neighbors are really wonderful and patient,” Guptill said. “If it got too crazy, we’d shut it down.”
Though the elaborate
display might seem like a good way to drive up the family light bill, Guptill said the display
actually uses less electricity than a static display, since each set of lights is only on for about 30 percent of the time.
Guptill credits his love of holiday lights to his father. Back in the 1960s, his father was always tinkering with displays and once built a big scene with reindeer passing gifts up to the roof of the house. Guptill’s background and day job also help with the task of building the display. During the week, Guptill works at the Little Rock Convention Center and Vistors Bureau as technical director, putting in a lot of work with the lighting and sound systems at Robinson Center Music Hall.
But even with all his knowledge, putting together the
display can be a chore. When people come up and ask how he does it and ask for advice, Guptill is always sure to emphasize how much work it is.
“I wasn’t even sure I’d have the time this year,” Guptill said.
It’s his love of Christmas and decorations that keeps him motivated to dedicate his time to the project.
“I’ve always loved it when everyone piles into the car at night to drive around and look at all the lights,” Guptill said.
Now his house is one of the major destinations for light drives in the area.
The display is located along the curve of Diamond Drive off Linda Lane in Cabot. The shows run from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through the first of the year.
To see the full show, go you YouTube.com and search Guptill Christmas.
Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or email@example.com.