ALACHUA ‒ For the past 16 years at Christmas, cars and people in lawn chairs have lined both sides of the road in front of Bill Holmes’ house on 170th Street in Alachua. They all come to see and hear the two-and-a-half-hour Christmas light show complete with 45 songs transmitted by radio at 97.7 FM frequency. The show features 55,000 incandescent lights as well as another 6,000 LED lights — all synced to holiday music and a nativity scene with lights spreading over two acres. For local families and visitors as far away as Jacksonville, it has become an annual tradition.
For Holmes, the past 16 years has been a labor of love to celebrate the holidays and share it with the community. As wonderful as it has been, the tradition will end this year.
“Much as I have enjoyed doing this and watching it expand every year, there are several factors that are making it time to end it,” said Holmes. Two years ago, Holmes’ wife passed and the 75-year-old is finding it more difficult to hang lights in trees and along rooftops.
Although Holmes has had help the last few years, he has continued to do the majority of the work himself. It takes three months to put the holiday extravaganza together as well as troubleshoot during the month it is up.
This coming year, Holmes will be selling his Alachua home and relocating to the Dade City, Florida, area to be near family. “At this stage in my life, as I start to recognize and accept my limitations, this is a good move for me,” Holmes said.
The amazing light show started small back in 2005 as a work in progress. Watching television, Holmes saw a guest on “Good Morning America” who had built a smaller version that integrated a computer-based system of synced lights and sound to create a show. “I was interested in the concept and began looking into the technical aspects,” Holmes said. It didn’t hurt that his former career was with Phillips Corporation and much of it in the IT division.
Holmes began to build his Christmas show system using a specially designed computer system to run the controller, which sends “scripts” to sections of lights, coordinating music and lights.
“When I started the show in December of 2005, I had 30,000 lights I had picked up cheap at an after Christmas sale, five controllers and five songs,” Holmes said. “The show lasted 15 minutes. I started with extension cords coming out of various house windows so we didn't overload the electrical circuits, but the lights in the house would dim as the Christmas lights changed.”
Each year the show continued to expand and refine. “I had Clay Electric double the amount of power here from 200 amps to 400 amps with the additional amps being divided into 24-amp circuits around the property to distribute out the draw,” said Holmes. Despite that, there is still 10,000 feet of extension cord to connect it all. “The system now is run by a custom-built computer that sends programs to 60 controllers that have 10,000 channels controlling various lights,” said Holmes. “They also control the music program for what has become a two-and-a-half-hour show,” Holmes said.
But while Holmes is giving up the show, it will not end. Over the past few years, he has had help from the Lopez family, who have helped maintain the property and put up lights. They have offered to take over and will be given all the supplies after this year’s show.
The Lopez family, consisting of two parents and four grown children, will also work with their church to find a new home for the show. “This year they did over 85 percent of the work including programming to get hands-on experience on the whole operation,” Holmes said. “I feel confident giving this over to them that they will carry on the tradition.”
For those who haven’t had the opportunity to experience Holmes’ Christmas show, take heart. Shows will be running nightly until Jan.2 from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. at 7904 N.W. 170th Street, Alachua.
# # #
- Font Size
- Reading Mode