Archive for Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lawrence couple’s passion for Christmas lights is off the charts

Couple devote hundreds of hours to light and music display at house

Mary Ann and Gary Martin have a lot of cars stopping outside their house at 1132 Parkside Circle. Not only do passersby get to view a colorful light display but they also get to listen to music synchronized to the display, broadcast to your car's FM radio. The Martins were photographed Monday, outside their home.

Mary Ann and Gary Martin have a lot of cars stopping outside their house at 1132 Parkside Circle. Not only do passersby get to view a colorful light display but they also get to listen to music synchronized to the display, broadcast to your car's FM radio. The Martins were photographed Monday, outside their home.

December 23, 2008


Display on Parkside Circle lights up neighborhood

Gary and Mary Ann Martin's 14-minute, animated, music-accompanied light show uses more than 35,000 Christmas lights.

Google Map

1132 Parkside Circle

Vimeo video

Parkside Christmas 2008

Try it yourself

Gary Martin said creating a computer-controlled Christmas light display isn't so hard if you have the time. was a very helpful resource for him, he said.

Even the simplest Christmas light display can require hours on a ladder in the bitter cold, trying to pin the brightly colored bulbs to the house.

Imagine then, how much time goes into a 14-minute, animated, music-accompanied light show using more than 35,000 Christmas lights.

That’s the sort of holiday display the Martins, 1132 Parkside Circle, have created in their front yard for all the world to see. And they have their own low-power radio station, 96.9 FM, operating out of their home to provide the music that goes along with the light display.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Gary Martin, who, when he’s not building the most elaborate Christmas light display in town, works as a system administrator for Lawrence Paper Co. “The songs take about 30 hours of work for every 30 seconds you see.”

The total show runs about 14 minutes. That means Gary, who has a bit of a theater and music background, and wife Mary Ann spent nearly 900 hours programming the lights to turn off and on with the music. That’s 35 24-hour days, or 105 eight-hour days. In reality, Mary Ann says, the project has been nearly three years in the making.

All told, Gary estimates they’ve spent about $4,000 on the display. And that doesn’t include some of the work they’d already done for their annual Halloween light display.

But that’s because they’ve done most of the work themselves. If they’d bought the light fixtures pre-formed, Gary estimated the costs at $10,000 to $12,000.

The Martins flipped the switch in early December but continue to add new sequences, including one added just this past weekend.

“I’ve always liked Christmas lights,” Gary said. “We’ve always done a lot of Christmas lights. It’s so much fun to watch. We just see people piled up outside watching all night long.”

Despite the blinking and flashing and the line of cars parked outside, the neighbors don’t seem to be bothered by their neighborhood’s star power.

“The ones that are fairly vocal about it just seem to love it,” Mary Ann said. “The people across the street come out, let us stand in their yard to videotape it. They let our friends stand over there to watch it. They’ve been very supportive.”

And as far as Gary knows, theirs is the only fully computerized lighting display in Lawrence. The nearest similar display is in Gardner.

The lights go on at 5:15 every night and stay on until 10 p.m. weekdays. On weekends, as well as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the lights are on until 11 p.m.

The Martins expect the light display to continue through the 12th night of Christmas, which is Jan. 6.


justthefacts 9 years, 2 months ago

Wonder what their neighbors think of all the traffic this must get for a street that is normally fairly slow.....

jehovah_bob 9 years, 2 months ago

They should install a "speed hump" and paint it to look like Santa.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

In your yard, Jehovan-boob? Like to see you try it.Thanks!

SofaKing 9 years, 2 months ago

Uh, whatever turns you on, dude. Seems like a big waste of time and electricity and money.

bevy 9 years, 2 months ago

Oh, Bah Humbug Sofa! Why does everyone have to be so grumpy!! These people apparently both work, thereby earning the ability to own their own home and give some cheer to the community. It's nice that the neighbors aren't grouchy like Sofaman. Looks great, guys!

John Hamm 9 years, 2 months ago

I'm sorry but this is not right.Whatever happened to "tasteful display?"

jehovah_bob 9 years, 2 months ago

Goatse, I only said I'd seen better. Which is true.I wouldn't want to try it, I already can't afford my electric bill.

FreddieKU 9 years, 2 months ago

So whats the FM frequency you have to tune to? I feel like this is somewhat of an important piece of info for this article.

Jonathan Kealing 9 years, 2 months ago

Freddie-It's a really low-power station, 96.9, that can only be tuned into from their block. They have signs up in their yards so people can get the right frequency. I didn't think it was pertinent for the article because they have the signs up.Jonathan KealingOnline editor

BigPrune 9 years, 2 months ago

I saw a house that is south of Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa that is pretty incredible. I'll have to check this joint out too.It seems there are more people with Christmas lights this year than before, that I've seen in a long time.

PatKirk 9 years, 2 months ago

I think the Martins must be related to Tim the Toolman Taylor (played by Tim Allen).

Bassetlover 9 years, 2 months ago

The kids in my backseat screaming with delight when they saw/heard this display would not think it was a big waste of money. What a bunch of Scrooges so many of you are and a big fat lump of coal to each of you who dissed this incredible display! We are thrilled this family so generously shared and displayed their talents with so many area children. Believe me, it's a Christmas memory they will treasure!

yellowhouse 9 years, 2 months ago

I remember when the people out on highway 59 used to decorate their yard every year until she died of cancer. It took them 3 weeks to put the display out.We would drive out there every year and tell the kids we were going to see santas house!It was a great family togetherness event!

formerfarmer 9 years, 2 months ago

YellowhouseIt was Charles and Alice Stone's residence. Charles went all out because Alice loved Christmas. They did a great job both inside and out.Thank you Martins, for taking the time and spending the money for the enjoyment of others at this time of year. Most of us appriciate your effort.

Wendy magillicutty 9 years, 2 months ago

i dont mind their christmas display-it's the halloween music (with pumping bass and terrifying screams) that suck.

Kent Fisher 9 years, 2 months ago

Thanks Martins! Looks like I'll attempt this next year, too...Clark Griswold

arnphawk 9 years, 2 months ago

what a menagerie..........what ever happened to tasteful, elegant, and simple?

Gary Martin 9 years, 2 months ago

Wow, with all the negativity here I'm surprised you all can get out of bed in the morning! I'm quite thankful that the (literally) hundreds of people that came by tonight alone and loved seeing our display so far outweigh your "Grinchiness". Right now our community and entire country is suffering from a serious lack of spirit. We're trying to stir some up. That's all.

diane66002 9 years, 2 months ago

actually jehovah_bob christmas lights cost cheaper then light bulbs on electric bill. so stuff it why dont ya

diane66002 9 years, 2 months ago

hey gary i actually like it. it's so neat wish i could afford to do that. i keep it on all year long since its cheaper then light bulbs lol

persevering_gal 9 years, 2 months ago

Hey Gary, I do like the display! We have a family who does that up here in South Dakota as well, and they also have a drop box for the Children's Miracle Network outside. It's amazing to see the cars lining up to not only see the hard work that goes into this animation process, but also the number of donations that come in each year. I think he said that he had to start working on his lights up to 5 or 6 months ahead of time!

southernmiss 9 years, 2 months ago

Does anyone know where to find the Light Up Lawrence contestants for 2008? The winner was announced in Westlake's ad on Dec 20, but I haven't found any of the other participants.

BrianR 9 years, 2 months ago

Yikes! Their electric meter must sound like a circular saw.

Sharon Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

When my kids were young, they loved taking one night to drive around looking at the Christmas lights. This one would have been a winner, especially with the music. As long as the neighbors don't complain, I think it's a great display Martins! Nothing wrong with being festive. I'm sure your display delights a lot of children as well as adults. I won't judge the quality since I haven't been by but I'm guessing a lot of those with negative comments haven't either.

Gary Martin 9 years, 2 months ago

Ah carbon footprint eh? Well consider this. In our display, while there are a lot of bulbs, most of them are OFF the majority of the time. A computerized display like this uses about 40% of the power that a static, always on one would. So right off the bat we are conserving energy by expressing our Christmas spirit this way.I can also guarantee you that our light display uses far less energy than Al Gore's 50 foot party barge does when they're both in operation! ;)Besides, this is about the smiles and memories we can bring to children of all ages. There are some things that are flat out worth it.P.S. We drive a hybrid Mercury Mariner. ;)

d_prowess 9 years, 2 months ago

The display is really impressive. I am suprised that none of the neighbors mind though. With the constant flashing it seems like it would be distracting and possibly migraine causing! Or they just have bought thick shades! Either way, keep up the good work.

wereallinthistogether 9 years, 2 months ago

Gary, I think it's an awesome display. I wouldn't let the grinches on these posts get you down. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people like that. You are going to bring many great memories to children. And as long as your neighbors don't mind, which it seems like they don't, then the heck with them! Merry Christmas and Thank you for a wonderful display!

cmheck 9 years, 2 months ago

This display is awsome just from the video!! My brother is going to be in town tonight from Tulsa and I can't wait to drive him and my nephews by to see this! Thank you to Gary and Mary Ann for sharing some much needed Christmas Spirit!

Staci Dark Simpson 9 years, 2 months ago

Looks beautiful. I can't wait to drive my son by tonight. ALright all you negative Nancys, just stay home and hope Santa doesn't bring you coal.

envirodude 9 years, 2 months ago

Lovely display. And for the naysayers, Al Gore wastes more energy in a month than this guy or I could ever conserve in a year.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 2 months ago

Its SofaKing not Sofaman, give him his props. Which just made me think, its a fist bap, not a fist bump. I have a half-black daughter and granddaughter so I learn all kinds of things about black people, ha, ha. That means that was meant to be a joke. You can get more satisfaction from being creative and making something with your own hands. I love watching Yankee Workshop and imagining that I could do that too, though I know I couldn't.

raiderssb 9 years, 2 months ago

Lovely, although the "spirit" of Christmas seems to have been lost. The money could have been much better spent on those less fortunate at this time of year. And just in case you wondered, yes, that IS what I do at this time of the year. There are so many families, veterans, and those who suffer because of this economy who could have benefited in other ways with the money they will spend on this extravaganza.

Wendy magillicutty 9 years, 2 months ago

I have to agree a bit. Just because I may or may not like a HUGE lighting display timed to music doesnt mean I am negative or have grinchiness. I wouldnt even opine but here it is in the paper, asking for I leave one. Trying to stir up spirit is a noble deed but some may feel contrary to the manner in which you stir, that's all. And apparently, it is only Christmas spirit that you intend to stir up, right? I love freedom of thought and religion and press and speech....There are millions (or billions) of Christians, all of which celebrate (or not) the spirit of Christmas in their own way-huge lighting displays is merely a facet of the jewel that is celebration. personally, I like spending lots of time thinking of others and wondering "if I were ___, what would I want but not yet get for myself?" that's just me. I dont believe either one of us is wrong-you or me. But be open to the fact that not all will agree that your display, albeit well intentioned and incredibly labor-intensive, may not jive with their concept of the Christmas spirit...maybe shaken, not stirred. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and to all "peace on earth"

Connacht 9 years, 2 months ago

I never liked looking at X-Mas lights, regardless of age. I hated having to help my dad take them out and then hold the ladder in the bitter cold while he put them up. That always put both of us in the greatest mood. I don't care what people do with their lights. It's not news worthy information.

Buggie7 9 years, 2 months ago

For once I have to agree with Yellowhouse. The Stones house was always a favorites stop with us on hwy 59. This house in the article is nice as well. Connact anything that is positive and in the holiday spirit is news worthy, why must so many believe that unless its negative it shouldnt be posted.Very good job to these people to brighten up the holidays and I sure miss the Stones.Happy Holidays to Allllllllll!!!!!!!!

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 2 months ago

I didn't read anything in the article that says they are Christian. Frankly, I could care less about the carbon footprint. At far as I am concerned that is a fancy mancy something that over educated people made up. I simply conserve and recycle because that is the sensible and practical thing to do. I would be willing to bet every one of my Harry Potter books that the Martins did not mean to ignite a firestorm with some cheery lights. Why worry about a problem that does not even exist? Happy Holidays, to the Martins and thanks for sharing.

coolmom 9 years, 2 months ago

i think its cool and they do shut it off at a decent hours the kids love it and that is what i think it is all about isnt it? merry christmas and happy and safe new years to all.

littleone 9 years, 2 months ago

I can't believe that these people took the time and their own money to give the public a fascinating show, and some of you on here are just, well, scrooged. May the spirit of St. Nick make you poop your pants when you least expect it!!!

always_amazed 9 years, 2 months ago

To the Martin's...I brought my kids by your house last night (teenagers)...they thought it was the most spectacular light show they have ever seen!!!! Thank you sooooo much for your time and money spent on this project!!!!!! I haven't been in the Christmas spirit until I saw your light showThank you so much for sharing with us and the rest of the city!!!!!

CeeDub 9 years, 2 months ago

Thank you Martins! I loved the different songs that played throughout the display, it has always been fun to drive around during Christmas and see different light decorations. It is obvious that you have put a lot of time and money into your display. For the negative comments saying you should have used the money directly helping the less fortunate, I feel you are but in a different way. During the holiday season, some families will see a Christmas Show, movie, or some other special activity. This way you provide them an opportunity to see a fantastic light show for free and provide a special Christmas memory.For Marion, was your comment to make us feel that you can't afford a newer car? I googled the '52 Allard 'cuz I hadn't heard of it, found out there were very few made. Also, the value range is $28,000 - $250,000 depending on model and condition. The '48 Buick can be valuable as well. These two vehicles alone do not have any emission controls, so they are big-time pollution emitters. Maybe Marion should sell the '52 Allard or the '48 Buick and donate the money to the less fortunate. Thank you again, Gary and Mary Ann along with your wonderful neighbors who support your show. Merry Christmas, have a Happy New Year, and a wonderful 2009!

Terry Jacobsen 9 years, 2 months ago

We stopped by tonight with all of our children in our van. We loved it! The music was wonderful and the lights flashing on and off in time to it was fantastic! Thank you for giving us 15 minutes of ohhs and ahhs from our youngest who is three to our oldest who is 20. Your display is truly appreciated by this family!

Brandi Simpson-Glover 9 years, 2 months ago

I cannot get enough of this; I absolutely LOVE it!!!!! How amazing. I have been by twice so far and will bring the rest of my family back tomorrow for the show-I can't wait to see the look on my young childrens' faces when they see the lights flashing in sync with the fabulous Christmas music playing on the radio in our car. Every town/city needs one of these!!! Thank you so much and have a Happy New Year!

Terry Bush 9 years, 2 months ago

I used to live in the home right next door (left in 1998) and would have loved having had you as neighbors Gary (except all the other cars on that street may have made getting into my driveway at 5:30 a little hard! LOL). Hope to get by to see it before it goes down.

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