Bowling Green teen doesn’t skip a beat with Christmas light show

12/21/2012
BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN — Only two kinds of people drive down Hilt Road just north of Bowling Green: the handful of people who live on the short, narrow country road and those who want to check out Drake Doren’s Christmas light show.

For the fourth year, Drake — a sophomore at Bowling Green High School — has designed, programmed, and installed an elaborate light show set to music on his family’s four-acre property. The 32-minute show, which runs continuously each evening from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, is, in a word, awesome.

“I am completely amazed at Drake’s holiday light show,” said Eric Radabaugh, a teacher who had Drake in his geometry class last year. “… I took my wife and son to see the light show this year and was once again astonished with Drake’s work. My son, who is almost 2, jumped up and down in the car for almost a half-hour.”

Every night after dark, people park their cars along the road in front of the Dorens’ home, dim the headlights, tune their radios to the low-frequency radio channel, 103.3, and feast their eyes on 50,000 LED lights blinking on and off with orchestral precision to Christmas classics such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and more contemporary ones such as Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights.”

It’s one of several such lights-to-music displays in the area, but it impresses viewers when they learn Drake is just 15. He begins setting it up in mid-September.

Drake Doren, 15, a sophomore at Bowling Green High School, starts his set-up in September, and then must program each accompanying beat of music to the thousands of lights.
Drake Doren, 15, a sophomore at Bowling Green High School, starts his set-up in September, and then must program each accompanying beat of music to the thousands of lights.

“Set-up is the easy part,” he said, explaining that programming the lights to accompany each beat of each song can take up to a month per song. There are now nine in the repertoire with “multiple moods.”

Some are soft and elegant. Others, such as Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter,” are “all out insane,” Drake said.

The number and quality of lights have expanded too. He started with 4,000 lights, mostly incandescent, for his first show four years ago. That took a toll on the electric bill, he said, adding that the 50,000 LED lights are far more efficient.

His father, Dennis Doren, laughs when asked about the cost of his son’s project.

“The issue isn’t the electricity,” Mr. Doren said, adding simply, “I’d rather not talk about it.”

To make the whole thing happen, Drake has a special desktop “Christmas computer,” programming software, radio transmitter and antenna, six controllers stationed around the yard, and nearly 4 miles of extension cord.

New this year, he built what he called a “megatree,” a focal point of the light show.

He planted a 29-foot section of television tower 4 feet into the ground, secured it at ground level with cement, strung 9,600 red-and-green lights in strands from the peak to the ground, perched a star on top, and added a homemade strobe light that makes an elegant white curl through the tree.

“It started as a hobby, but I’m starting to discover more and more that this could be good for my job or college,” said Drake, who also runs a mobile deejay business.

His family, including mother, Rhonda, twin sister, Teagan, and younger brothers Trevor and Van, say the light show is all Drake’s.

“He does it all,” Mr. Doren said. “Drake does a great job doing the work. There’s no question it’s an investment, but Drake has made it very clear why he does it.”

“To bring Christmas joy to everyone,” the teenager says without hesitation.

Drake said he hopes the experience will lighten the stress the holidays can bring.

“He makes people happy with it,” Mr. Doren said. “He gets cards every year [from people who say] that it got them in the mood, made them happier.”

The show runs from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The Dorens’ home at 18647 Hilt Rd. is a mile east of State Rt. 25 between Sugar Ridge and Simonds roads.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.