Archive for Sunday, September 6, 2009

Holiday display already under way for couple after last year’s debut

Gary Martin marks spots Thursday to mount a new frame of lights he made for above his front porch for this year’s holiday decoration at 1132 Parkside Circle.

Gary Martin marks spots Thursday to mount a new frame of lights he made for above his front porch for this year’s holiday decoration at 1132 Parkside Circle.

September 6, 2009


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1132 Parkside Circle

Gary Martin is scaling his step ladder, lugging a wire frame — one that he welded himself, then bedazzled with LED lights — up onto his roof, just to see exactly where he’ll need to insert eye screws to hold the new star-studded apparatus in place.

Never mind that it’s still summer, or that he won’t need to plug it in for another 12 weeks, or that he still has two pallets of unopened lights tucked away in the basement, awaiting frames to call their own.

No, Martin is embracing the pressure to perform, to surprise, to entertain for an upcoming season sure to be begging for some holiday cheer.

And it’s never too early to start.

“I’ve always been big on Christmas lights,” Martin says, before taking rooftop measurements last week. “It’s a tradition I don’t want to see go away.”

Judging by the preparations going on since January at 1132 Parkside Circle, there’s little chance that his efforts will go dark anytime soon.

Since January, Gary and Mary Ann Martin have been busy planning, assembling and choreographing their home’s holiday lighting display, still in development for its second year.

Last year’s debut attracted increasingly large crowds through Christmas — often backing up traffic both ways on Harvard Road near “Dad” Perry Park — as word spread of the high-tech display. Once in range, people parked their cars for up to 14 minutes at a time, soaking up a dazzling light show that was synchronized to music transmitted on a low-wattage FM radio station.

Sounds for the season

This year’s show will be even bigger, with as many as 70,000 lights blinking on and off to the beat of an extended series of musical selections. The family’s radio transmitter already has been overhauled, promising even clearer sounds to accompany the display set to be three times larger than the original.

“It’ll put out a little better bass,” Mary Ann says. “You’ll be able to vibrate.”

Mary Ann doesn’t even know how much money she and her husband have invested in the project — “I don’t look at that,” she says, “because I’d get panicky” — but there are some frugal methods to enable their cheerful madness.

“We definitely buy in the after-Christmas sales,” she says. “We hit everywhere here: Wal-Mart, Westlake (Ace Hardware), Target. I grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, and as we drive there we’ll hit every store there and any store in between: ‘Hey, there’s a Lowe’s!’ We hit a lot of different places.”

Gary, meanwhile, has added do-it-yourself skills to the ones he already counts on both for employment — he’s IT manager at Lawrence Paper Co. — and for rigging a hard-wired, computer-programmed, down-to-the-split-second neighborhood extravaganza.

“I picked up welding this year, so I can make wire frames for all this stuff,” he says, noting that he sticks to snowmen and other basic, nondenominational shapes. “I don’t want to get into all kinds of animals and stuff. It’s too bulky to store.”

Instead, he’ll soon dig a hole 4 feet deep in his side yard, so that he can pour a concrete base capable of supporting a new “megatree”: A 22-foot-tall steel pole festooned with 10,000 red, green and white lights, plus a 16-pixel RGB (red-green-blue) LED star capable of producing, he says, “all kinds of patterns and infinite colors.”

Channels changing

No wonder he’s up over the porch, taking measurements long before ever-anxious retailers can dust off their own Christmas displays.

“Last year we were running 140 channels,” Gary says, explaining that “white lights on the roof” for example would represent one channel. “This year I’m having to modify all the programming, because it’s already pushed up to 580 channels. We have to redo all the programming. We’ve added almost another 20 controllers. I need to get more data lines in. There’s some technical challenges in there. …”

But he’s not stressing out. Not yet.

Having already lost nine days of work because of sickness — “at least I’ve got the swine flu out of the way,” he says — Gary hopes to have time to bring most, if not all, of his bright vision to life.

The lights are scheduled to go on shortly after 5 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

“That’s if I get it all done in time,” he laughs. His five color-changing wire twig trees in the garage already are getting a free pass this season, given time constraints.

“I need to pull all the minilights out and put in red, white and green,” Gary says. “That’ll be a next-year addition.”


Susan Mangan 8 years, 7 months ago

I had a different reaction to this story than I expected. Reading the headline, I thought, as much as I love the Christmas season, this is way too early to be turning on lights! I didn't realize it was about the preparation, instead, and I'm impressed with these people. More power to pun intended. I admire their obvious passion and I'll be there to see the display at some point.

Scott Overfield 8 years, 7 months ago

I hope someone from Westar reads this story, there is still time to give this guy a larger feed.

Jay Riner 8 years, 7 months ago

They should look for sponsors. They could sell commercial airtime on their FM station.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 7 months ago

Py if it really bothers you that much, call the police. We do have a noise ordinance you know. Get them to go over and tell them to turn it down. I'm just glad Mary Ann does not live in my neighborhood. "You'll be able to vibrate." Oh, Lord!

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

“It’ll put out a little better bass,” Mary Ann says. “You’ll be able to vibrate.”

Hey, the dude's next door sometimes do that all year 'round.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 7 months ago

I used to have a boyfriend with a Harley that would do that.

SofaKing 8 years, 7 months ago

Eccentricity is not, as some would believe, a form of madness.

Bassetlover 8 years, 7 months ago

Pywacket - We have close friends who live a few houses down from the Martin's and they have absolutely no probelm with it. We have also driven by this display several times during the holiday season and there is no noise!!! You can only hear it from the radio inside your car. The only "thing" the Martin's have going on is their desire to make people happy during the holidays. That shouldn't scare anyone.

GardenMomma 8 years, 7 months ago

Two pallets? How many lights is that exactly? A pallet of anything is quite a few.

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years, 7 months ago

Sounds to me like pywacket must have gotten coal every year. Give it up Grinch, I think you're reading waaaaay to much into this. If you have a problem with it, don't go watch it. And as for the financial investment, it's not your money, remember? BTW, I have seen several displays, the Martins as well as several in the KC area and some of these displays do get sponsors and do take donations... All for a chosen charity. Get off you high horse and have a little Christmas spirit. If you don't have any then maybe you SHOULD go watch the Martin's lights.

Jay Riner 8 years, 7 months ago

Pywacket...First of all, I'm sure Dennis the Menace LOVES to come by your house ALL the time. Secondly, The police can issue citations for excessive noise. They'll be more than happy to write a ticket to the individual responsible for your listening displeasure. Since YOU would most likely have control over the volume in your own vehicle, just call it in. I'd LOVE to see the officer's face when you try that one.

BlackVelvet 8 years, 7 months ago

I guess we'll have to accept the fact that around here, there's always going to be one person who finds fault with everything. And in this case, it happens to be pywhacket.

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

Forget it, py. If you criticize anyone enjoying Christmas in any way, regardless of result, you're going to be a grinch or hateful in the minds of some people. You brought up a good point, that I hadn't considered. If it doesn't actually fit perfectly to this example, the problem is the wording in the article.

And the rest of you would change your tune really damned quick, I bet, if you had to live next to a house that did, as the article suggests, make people vibrate. You should just admit it to yourself.

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years, 7 months ago

My Goodness, Pywacket, you are DENSE! Did you miss the part of the article at Christmas time where they talked to the neighbors? You seem to have a bigger problem with this than anyone who might actually be affected. You chose to post vapid comments when you didn't even clearly read the article. Even an "idiot" like you should be able to figure out that an FM Transmitter doesn't play any audible music. All the article stated was that the signal would be clearer this year.

I think the problem is that there aren't enough people like Gary and Mary Ann. I think that we actually need more decorated houses, that way all 100,000 people in Lawrence have more than just one musical Christmas show to go watch! As to your position of "excess," different folks different strokes. I have seen some pretty excessive things people do to celebrate holidays. How about the guy who drops thousands on fireworks that could rival a professional show out south of town? How about all the people celebrating before/during/after KU Games, What about the ridiculous extent some people go to for a Halloween costume? You're really grasping at straws to make such a blanket statement. "it's obsessive and wasteful." I think a lot of people do truly obsessive and wasteful things with their money that benefit absolutely no one as opposed to a display everyone can watch and enjoy. You are absolutely off your rocker and not worth arguing with. Go donate all your expendable income to a charity and crawl back into the hole you crawled out of. You can sit in there and feel really great about yourself.

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