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Published: 12/19/2010

Toledo Magazine: Lights are a yearly traditon for many

It only takes one person — especially one little person — and Jeff Schmidt springs into action every year around Thanksgiving.

In a few days in the late fall his 4604 Manorwood Road is festooned with Christmas lights and his home once again becomes a must-see attraction for folks in his neighborhood. After all, he can't let anyone down, right?

“I even ask myself why I do it,” he said. But then a neighbor will stop him and say, “My little daughter just loves your lights. Are you going to put them up? And what am I going to do? It just gets them in the mood and makes them feel like the spirit of Christmas.”

The history of lighting Christmas trees dates to the 17th century when people would put lit candles on trees. Thankfully for firefighters across the world, electric lights started being used in the late 1800s. Since then, lights have illuminated winter nights between Th anksgiving and Christmas, with displays getting bigger and brighter and more sophisticated.

Take Jeremy Mikolajczyk's 2108 Lisa Lane display as a prime example of the degree to which a Christmas light show can become a high-tech choreographed thing of beauty. The senior drafter for the city of Toledo's street department put up 17,000 lights this year, all synced with music that a person can listen to by tuning into 94.3 on the FM dial when they drive by.

“I have an Excel spreadsheet [that] tells me which channel each light is going on, what each light does, how many amps I'm pulling off each light, and it counts how many lights I have,” he said.

This is the second year for his display and he promises even bigger and better in 2011. He has 80 “channels” that he can run the lights on through his computer now and next year he expects to have 128 channels. Th at translates to lots of lights.

“It's fun. You get to work with computers, you get to work with the lighting, you get to work with songs, and it actually is a full-year deal. It probably takes me eight hours per minute to program,” he said.

Mark Hayden is the “Christmas light guy” in his 927 Jean Road neighborhood and he prides himself on slowly building up his display into what it is now. The secret is good shopping habits over the past 12 years he has been putting up lights.

“I'm one of the kooks that will go after Labor Day and look at the Christmas displays they're doing in the stores,” he said. “If I see anything that looks cool or will be a good addition, I'll pick it up.”

All three men said they generally stay away from “knickknacks” and mechanical blow-up displays, preferring to let the lights do their artistic talking for them.

And yes, it's costly. A big display can add a couple of hundred dollars on your electric bill and, as Mr. Hayden said, “Toledo Edison loves it.”

But so do passersby, which is what's important to him.

“I like to see people stop by the house. I get a lot of traffic, even though I live on like an alley, and I just like to make people happy and put a smile on people's faces,” he said.

Contact Rod Lockwood at

rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6159.



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