Friday – 8 Days Till Christmas

December 16, 2016

Its about to get a whole lot busier! Santa arrives tonight at 5:30 and he will be here every night from 5:30 till 9:00 thru next Friday. You know what that means…traffic really picks up. No more easy drives up the street and easy parking.
Traditionally speaking, the 20 minute wait time to get up the street is back for the next 10 nights. It usually does not drop off till after 9:00. Speaking of times, the lights will now go off at 10:30, instead of 10:00 thru Christmas Day.
The last few days have seen a regular stream of visitors, with a significant number of the them “taking the walk”. Five to eight buses a night and about the same number of limos. I’ve met a lot of interesting folks to talk to and picked up my first China visitor. Actually it was a couple with an adopted baby from China, who had just arrived in the last month.
How many of you saw the special on Sunnyside Lights last night? Tennessee Crossroads on PBS came thru again. They will re-show it again on Sunday morning.
The forecast for tonight looks pretty good (much better than the low 20’s of the last two nights). Saturday night looks like a rain event (won’t stop me from being out directing traffic and a-greeting you). The next 5 days look pretty good…lets hope it holds thru Christmas Eve.
Make sure you tell me about out of state visitors when you come.

Advertisements

Monday – 12 Days Till Christmas

December 12, 2016

Time is flying by…Santa is about to arrive at Sunnyside Lights. Friday night, just 4 days away, he will be here meeting and greeting for a total of 8 nights. I asked him if rain would be a problem, but he just chuckled and said not in the little house you have for me. Go Santa!

A recap of whats been happening. Last Tue, Wed & Thur were fairly slow, as expected. But even with an occasional shower, we had a lot of folks out walking, even when it started getting cold the end of the week. I average 5 figures a day in the repair shop. Since putting the figures and lights out, I have replaced 2100 more lights, which brings this year in line with previous years for light replacement.

I anticipated Friday night being big and it was…but not huge, just a steady flow right up to 10:00 when the lights went out. It was cold, but that sure didn’t stop folks from taking “the walk”. Trolleys are running Friday, Saturday & Sunday (2 times per night), but next weekend will be their last. They were joined by numerous other “trolleys”, buses and limos. I would call Friday about an 800 car night.

Saturday was another story…a preview of whats to come next weekend. Started off with 10 cars “awaiting” at 5:00 and never had less than 20 cars in sight until 9:30. Beautiful night and the drive had plenty of folks 100% of the time. Had one fun time when I had 4 buses and limos parked and the 2 trolleys showed up…got interesting for about 15 minutes (that’s an understatement).

Sunday was steady, but not overwhelming and got quiet about 9:30. Bus and limo count was down, but the trolleys showed up twice. The temp was great and only an occasional drizzle, so had lots of folks taking the walk.

Update on states represented so far…add the following to the ones I mentioned at the end of Thanksgiving weekend: ID, IA, KS, MT, WA, WY, CO, MI, RI and DC (I know its not a state, but they like to think so). Up to about 28 states now, but stuck on countries at 3.

I expect the next 3 nights to be fairly quiet and I have my last “must attend” meeting tonight. Friday, with the arrival of Santa, will kick off the Christmas rush. For those of you that have visited and enjoyed the quick drive up the street, be prepared. 20 minutes waits to come up the street will be the norm during the Christmas week. There will be lots of buses and limos to help slow down the process too. But I will have at least 2 Shriners helping me direct traffic each night and I will bring my 30 years experience at directing traffic to bear. Speaking of the Shriners, by donation total has been running about 30% behind last year, we need to step up and help the kids!

Monday – 19 Days Till Christmas

December 5, 2016

There have been a considerable number of visits to my blog over the past few days, so here is an update on the first weekend in December.

As expected, it was busy all three nights…but nothing like the next two weekends will be! No one had to wait to come up the street. I never saw more than 10 cars at a time. Of course the arrival of multiple buses/trolleys always slow things a bit, but I try to get them parked as soon as possible. Yes, the trolleys are back (but only two of them at a time, which makes it a lot easier to get them parked). They will run for the next two weekends on Fri, Sat & Sun, usually arriving around 7:15 and again around 9:00. Gray line had their buses out all 3 nights and will continue with them throughout the week. Averaged about seven limos each night too. The double decker even showed up. The car count was in the neighborhood of about 700 on Friday, 850 on Saturday and 600 on Sunday.

I always anticipate a problem rate of about 1 to 2% on my figures each night (not the whole figure, just some sections), which means about 4 to 8 figures will need work the next day. Its been holding true, with 5 on Friday, 5 on Saturday, 4 on Sunday and 7 today. I try to keep complete rewiring to a minimum, unless its one that I plan to keep well into the future.

Still getting comments about this being my LAST YEAR…the power of the press, I guess. Sure wish they had checked with me first. Next year is my 35th Year and that will be the last one of my mega-show. After that I will cut back to just my favorites, and the list is growing almost daily. If I don’t watch out I’ll be back to a mini-mega.

Friday night weather was pretty good, but Saturday was one big drizzle. Sunday night a very light drizzle which lasted till about 8:00, which was just about the time the traffic started to slow down. Tonight looks OK. Sure looking forward to the 20’s this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday!

Collections for the Shrine Hospitals are running behind last year, but its way too early to call it.

Wednesday – 25 Days Till Christmas

November 30, 2016

Had a busy weekend and a slow work week (so far). As I mentioned, Thanksgiving day went well and expectations were high for the weekend.
Friday night started off slow, but by 5:30 it became a steady stream right up till 9:15. The weather was nice and there were alot of folks out walking.
Saturday night was the busiest of the weekend. Eight cars when the lights came on and it didn’t end till about 9:30. Snow (my Samoyed dog) and I got a workout greeting all the folks who “walked the walk”. As usual, I found lots of interesting folks to talk to and probably answered the question “how long does it take you” and least 75 times. We had three limos and one bus.
Sunday continued the steady stream of traffic, but it ended about 8:30. Each night I found figures that decided to give me problems. On average, I repaired about 5 figures a day. Continued to have problems with my light controller and am currently plugging in manually 3 of the 12 circuits on my yard. The new controller is suppose to arrive today.
Monday and Tuesday nights were generally wet and the visitor count was down. The first 2 hours on Tuesday evening were beautiful and warm with no rain…and very few walkers. It did give me a chance to wander about fixing strings of lights that had gone out.
Added a few states to the list…FL, IN. MA, NY, WV, NE, & MD. Two countries so far… Mexico and Morocco.
Lights in the neighborhood are starting to appear, especially the family at the bottom of the hill who completely fills their yard with neat stuff.

I’ve had a number of folks comment on this being my “last year”.   THIS IS NOT MY LAST YEARnext year is, when I celebrate 35 years of Christmas lights.

Saturday – 28 days till Christmas

November 26, 2016

The lights went on Thursday night…pretty much without a hitch. Normally I have 10 or 12 cars awaiting for the big moment, but this year there was only one. Fortunately, it was shortly followed (right up till 9:30) by a continuous line of cars with at least a couple of hundred walkers. The weather was perfect and I had a great time talking with both “long time regulars” and first timers. A list of the states represented will be at the end of this post.

Friday night started off quiet too, but soon turned into a steady stream of visitors, with at least half of them “taking the walk”. Even had my first limo of the year (of course it was the owner taking family out for the evening). The weather was a bit cooler, but still very pleasant.

My biggest problem so far has been my light controller wearing out. It sends out a signal thru my electrical lines to turn on the lights and it appears that signal has weakened over the years (only had it for about 20 years). The result is having to bypass the switches on a number of the cords to get them to come on. That means all my lights do not come on at exactly the same time (it depends how quickly I move between the failed switches) It seems about 5 of the 12 circuits are affected…but they are spread around the house. I have ordered a new one.

Weather looks good for Saturday and Sunday night, so I expect good turn-outs. The first couple of weeks are really the best times to visit, since there are no long waits to come up the streets. Rain is actually in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday nights…probably another less than tenth of an inch!

The lights are on from 5:00 till 10:00 until Santa arrives on Friday, December 16th, when they stay on till 10:30.

States represented so far…AZ. NM, CA, TX, MO, SD, AL, GA, NC, KY, MS & IL. Not bad for the first 2 days, but than Thanksgiving always see a good number of out of town visitors.

Tuesday – 2 Days Till Light-off

November 22, 2016

Its getting close, but I’m ready. Yes, its 99% complete! All that is left is to put out the cones, the sign at the bottom of the street and set the timers.
The last 10 days have been exciting (and tiring). The Sunday before last my nephew and crew arrived and we got out all the figures on the two main houses. While his crew put out the figures, my brother and I actually got them all wired in…same day, thats a first.
During the week, my brother and I were able to put out all the figures in the 6 neighbor’s yards, wire them up and check them out. As expected, the hard ground made pounding in stakes a challenge. Actually lost about 20 stakes (at about $4 each) when they bent as they went in. We elected not to put in the long green line in front of all the houses to save us from pounding in another 50 stakes. I also decided to not put in the lanterns at each driveway since they take really big stakes. As a result of decreasing the number of stakes (long green line), my light count went down about 5,000 lights.
By Saturday morning we were up to 95% complete, so we took Saturday off. Finished up Sunday with all the little items and the only thing remaining for Monday was balancing the circuits and putting lights on the neighbors’ house (he was having his trim painted and the guy didn’t finish till Sunday evening).
Today is a paperwork day at the shop as I am way behind. I hope to plug the cables into the timers this afternoon and try to get all the lights to agree to come on at 5:00. Wednesday evening I’ll try again and hopefully on Thanksgiving they will all come on at about the same time…5:00.
I’ve checked all the figures and lights 3 times now (and repaired as necessary each time). I’m crossing my fingers that they will all work!.
See you on Thanksgiving!

Friday – 13 days till light off for the 2016 Season

November 11, 2016

I’ve been negligent in keeping you updated on my progress toward our Thanksgiving Day light-off. Sorry about that.

As of this morning all of the perimeter, driveway and main house lights have been put up. As have the perimeter and driveway lights on my neighbors house. I have the back garage and some fence lights to finish and the figures will start going out. I anticipate that by Sunday evening all of the figures will be out on the two main houses and I will spend the next couple of days running the electricity (and checking the loads on each circuit).
Following the completion of the two main houses, I will embark on decorating the yards of the other 6 houses and plan to have that complete by the Sunday before Thanksgiving. That will give me a couple of days to fine tune.

Last Sunday I had my nephew show up with family in tow. With their help I got up the Christmas entrance sign, brought down Santa’s house, erected the 8 arches and put up about about 3/4 of the driveway lights…what a day!

My brother arrived on Wednesday for a 2 week stay and we started off yesterday running. Finished the entrance, gazebo and the main house lights in one day. Today we will finish the garage and fence as noted above and start moving out the figures to their respective areas. My nephew and crew will be back on Sunday to help put the figures up.

I’ve had two problems in getting my lights out this year. The first is the need to train a couple of delivery drivers at my flower shop who just started this week. This has cost me 3 working days this week and probably 2 more next week. The second problem has been the drought…boy the ground is hard! I’ve been heavily watering my yard for the last 2 weeks and it hasn’t been too bad for pounding in stakes. But the neighbors yard has been a different story! Every figure has at least one stake to go in the ground, so that is several hundred stakes to go!

I actually expect to have more figures out this year than any past year…which is fitting, since it will be my last year of doing all 8 houses.

Till next weekend.

Welcome to the 2016 Christmas Lights

October 6, 2016

Its that time of year again…time to get ready for our 34th Annual Christmas Light Spectacular! As always, the light show will begin on Thanksgiving Day and end on New Years. Santa has already confirmed that he will be present every evening during Christmas week (Friday, December 17th thru Friday, December 23rd).

I’ve been working on the 400 figures since the beginning of September and am happy to report that I have gone thru all of them. I replaced about 3,000 lights and re-taped around 15,000 lights. This is actually a significant improvement over previous years, so I’m not complaining.

For those of you who do not know, each light on the figures (about 65,000-70,000 total) is taped on with strapping tape and the tape is good for approximately 4 years. I noticed, when working on the figures, that some of the lights are over 15 years old…pretty good life-time for the mini-bulbs (especially when compared to the newer LED lights which do not seem to last more than 2 seasons!).

I will start working on putting up the actual display the first week in November. 23 days to put out about 135,000 lights and about 400 figures! As the work progresses, I will keep you updated on my progress on at least a weekly basis during November.

As always, there will be changes in the display and its up to you to discover them.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
All good things must come to an end. This is my 34th year of putting on the light production and I’m not getting any younger. This is the last year I will be doing 8 houses. Next year it will be only the 2 main houses (which account for about 70% of the lights and figures anyway). It will also be the last year (my 35th) of my mega light display.

The Wrap for Christmas 2015

January 8, 2016

Everything is down! 6 days is a new record!

We also set a new record for donations to the Shrine Hospitals for Children…$ 8,585.00!!! Wow. A big thanks to all the generous folks in Middle Tennessee.

Take down started with a bang. On New Years Day my nephew showed up with his daughter, her husband and teenage daughter to help take down the display. In 5 hours all of the figures from all nine houses were put away! This normally takes me about 5 days, as I do it in sections. Great weather (except for one cold day) and no rain allowed me to complete the take down in 6 days.

Planning for 2016 has already begun and I have already designed my first new figure. I have about 20,000 brand new lights for replacements.

Have a safe and happy 2016 and I’ll be back blogging in October.

God Bless,

Bill

Sunday – 4 Days Till Take-down

December 27, 2015

Going into the final days before it all comes down. Its been a great run, with lots of visitors and donations to the Shrine Hospitals for Children.
The lead up to Christmas night was interesting. Monday was rainy and relatively low on the visitor count. Tuesday blew out the socks with the busiest night to date and record donations. Santa gave out over 500 candy canes!

Wednesday started slow (thanks to the mayor asking everyone to stay at home), but wasn’t bad until 8:00 when the sirens went off. At that time we had 3 limos, a bus and about a dozen cars (over 100 folks out walking)…by 8:10 they were all gone. For the next 40 minutes my two traffic assistants and Santa just sat around waiting…no rain, no wind. Finally picked up about 9:00, but never got busy. Too bad, since it was Santa’s last night.

Christmas Eve – as expected the biggest night of the season. From 5:00 to 10:15 I never sat down. The wait was never less than 10 minutes to come up the street and only exceeded 20 minutes for a brief time. I counted 1,650 cars by 10:00. Had a couple of buses and about 10 limos sprinkled in. Lots and lots of folks out walking. The weather was absolutely perfect.  At 10:10, I still couldn’t see the end of the line and I was beginning to worry that it would continue past 10:30 when the lights went out.  But it magically came to an end with only 3 cars left when they went off.

Both Friday and Saturday night were busy and the weather was great (got 3 inches of rain early Friday morning, so everything was wet and the creek was flowing. I had a lot of interesting conversations with visiting folks…lots of out of town folks. Guess its time to list the states and countries again:
AZ, AL, CO, KY, WISC, IL, GA, FL, NE, OH, MA, IN, CA, NV, MI, MD, WV, SC, TX, AR, MO, ME, DC, MI, ID, KS, NV, HAWAII, ALASKA, OH, NC, WASH, NH, NY & WV.

IRELAND, ITALY, WALES, SCOTLAND, GERMANY, RUSSIA, JAPAN, MEXICO, S. AFRICA, NEW ZEALAND, CANADA, GUATEMALA, CHINA, INDIA & BRAZIL.

Probably missed several.

New Year’s Eve is the last night. Starting Friday morning I will begin take-down…working my way up the street. Goal is by the end of the weekend to have 7 yards cleared and my driveway arches down. Estimate it will take 12 days to put everything away.

And, of course, I’m already planning out 2016 in my mind.

I’ll let you know when everything is put away.