Light show spreads Christmas spirit

By Tammy Keith Originally Published December 27, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 27, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Tony Brighter works on restoring power to lights in a display that is part of his computer-controlled, musical Christmas light show. The display was damaged during high winds earlier in the week.

— Tony Circle in Conway is a Brighter place again this Christmas season with 85,000 lights set to music.

Tony and Angi Brighter, 1305 Tony Circle in the Catherine Place subdivision, have added to their free light show each year, and more neighbors have joined the effort.

“This is our gift to the community,” Tony said.

That, and his elevated electric bill.

Even though Christmas is over, the light show will continue through Dec. 31.

It will be alight from 5-11 p.m. today and from 5-11:30 p.m. on the weekend and New Year’s Eve.

Tony, an employee of Acxiom, spent hundreds of hours programming the lights to dance to 21 songs, which are broadcast on a radio frequency.

It takes him 250 to 300 hours to program every song.

“I can buy them preprogrammed, but the ‘wow’ factor won’t be there,” he said. “It won’t have that special touch like what I do.”

The song “A Soldier’s Silent Night” is popular, he said.

“I put it in there last year at the end of the season, and it has had overwhelming praise because people love it,” he said.

People drive into the cul-de-sac, turn off their lights, tune their radios to 89.9 FM and enjoy.

On Dec. 20, Tony was doing “damage cleanup” after high winds blew down his 24-foot lighted tree.

“I woke up to it laying on the ground this morning,” he said. “The rain doesn’t really bother us as much as this wind did.”

Brighter said that when he thanked one man who helped right the tree, the man said, “I’m just glad I could help, because it’s not Christmas till your lights are on.”

The Brighters started the show in 2007 after Tony got an email with a video of a home in Utah that had lights programmed to music.

“That one email sparked what I wanted to do. When I saw it, I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to figure out what he does and how he does it,’” Tony said.

He’s added lights every year, as well as neighbors’ homes.

“Every neighbor has come to me and said, ‘What would it take to get in?’ They buy the equipment that allows my computer to talk to their lights,” he said.

The Brighters hand out small candy canes to keep count of how many people come through.

Last year, they gave out 13,280 candy canes.

“We love meeting a lot of different people,” Tony said.

“A lady from Las Vegas came; a lady from Canada came. We’ve had people from Malaysia,” he said, people who were visiting Arkansas families.

“We had a family from Prescott come through the other night,” he said.

“One man drove from Memphis here, donated $60 and drove back. That blew us away,” Tony said.

More information and directions are available on the Brighters’ website, www.brightersofconway.com.

The couple collect new and gently used toys and coats for Make a Child Smile, a nonprofit organization that serves needy children in central Arkansas.

Although attendance for the Tony Circle show is up, donations are down, he said.

However, he said, they have delivered “one full pickup” of toys, coats and clothes to the organization.

Tracy Stocks, president of Make a Child Smile, said the donations help “tremendously.”

“They get toys donated and cash donations, and it’s a big help to us,” Stocks said. “They basically do it every year. No matter how cold, or how bad the weather is, they’re out there. We’re proud to have them as a partner.”

Tony Brighter, whose name fits the hobby, said he never gets tired of seeing the light show.

“Every time I walk out there and I see a smiling face, or I see someone with an expression or a comment that they love it, or it’s amazing, those key words — it makes it worth it,” he said.

“The main purpose in doing it is it gives people something to do as a family, and it gives college kids something to do when they’re bored after finals,” he said.

“If there is any hesitation in their minds whether they were in the Christmas spirit, when they leave us, hopefully they are.”

Even if Christmas is over.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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