Imagine 10,000 lights twinkling in sync to the fantastic sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Imagine tuning the car radio to 92.5 FM and listening to the music that governs the lights' timing.
No imagination will be needed if you drive by 711 Sixth Street from 6:30-9 p.m., Thanksgiving night until Christmas, weather permitting.
Billy and Elaine Chew have once again gifted the community with their celebration of the holidays in amazing animated lights covering their property.
“We've doubled the number of strings,” Billy Chew said. “It has been a family effort.”
This year the family assistance has increased with his wife's sister and brother-in-law moving to Stephenville from South Africa.
Chew said it took four days just to get the lights in place. At least a quarter-mile of extension cords are strategically placed on the lawn.
Then, the timing sequence for the music began. Chew said that was when the work became tedious.
“It took 18 hours to program one song,” he said. “There are ten songs that loop continuously.”
The planning didn't begin this month, but last March. Chew said his house was rewired the prior year. This year more controllers were required as the original 16 channels were doubled.
An online site's software was used to program the beats of the music and coordinate various groups and colors of lights to flash in a predetermined sequence.
Frequent visits to local hardware stores are in the master plan.
“Blown fuses are always a problem,” Chew said. “Once everything is set, it's not as difficult.”
Anyone who owns a computer is always concerned with the inevitable “crash,” but he is ready.
“The back-up has a back-up,” he said.
Last year, there were speakers placed in the yard for the sightseers. Chew said that after listening to the same music for hours each evening, he decided to install the FM transmitter.
“Now, people can sit in their cars and listen to the music on 92.5 FM and not even have to crack a window to hear the program which runs about thirty minutes,” he said.
Chew said they were pleased with the first year's response from the community. Bus loads from churches and vans of senior citizens stopped in front of the house for the duration of the program.
“Children sang and danced on the lawn,” he said. “It was a joy to watch.”
The attraction will definitely be a video cam event. Chew said his display is small compared to those who have won contests and can be viewed at Lightorama.com.
“Some contestants have over a million lights in their displays,” he said. “I'm not even close…yet.”
However, he intends to continue adding to his production every year.
“I just have to convince my wife,” he said.
Chew is also including his favorite charity, Relay for Life, in his gift to others this season.
“Several members of my family have cancer,” he said. “Research is a must for cures, and Relay for Life is one organization that benefits cancer patients in many ways.”
He said that there is absolutely no obligation for anyone to donate, but he will have a container at the walkway by the street for anyone who wishes to contribute. All proceeds will go directly to the foundation.
The stress of the season is here. The Chews invite the community to take a moment, escape the crush of crowds, and drive by to share their creation as a celebration of the holidays. And, it's a secret, but Santa might even make an unannounced visit before his big night.
SHERRY BOARDMAN is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-965-3124, ext. 229.