Maybe you’ve marveled at those YouTube videos of Christmas lights dancing to music, propelled by the magic of computerization.
Now you can see one of those displays in person, kicked up a notch.
A computerized light show called Dazzle is the centerpiece of Stan Hywet Hall & Garden’s annual holiday celebration, Deck the Hall. The theme of this year’s festivities is “Heaven & Nature Sing,” a reference to the musical motif woven through the celebration.
Three times each hour starting at 6 p.m., the light show sets the Great Garden aglow with lights that blink to the beat, dissolve, change color and even appear to spin. The centerpiece of the production is a 25-foot Christmas tree, but the show also incorporates apple trees dressed in lights as well as glowing spheres, bees, butterflies and flowers, all spread over 2½ acres.
“It’s a Christmas botanical spectacular,” said Linda Conrad, president and executive director of the historical estate.
The Christmas tree itself is noteworthy, Conrad said. She said the artificial tree, from commercial Christmas decoration company Dekra-Lite, is one of only four giant LED-lighted trees capable of producing any color in the spectrum. It can be expanded and even made taller, so Stan Hywet’s light show can grow and change in years to come, she said.
“All I’ll tell you is [the other] three went to world-famous theme parks,” Conrad said. “ … To our knowledge, there isn’t anything like this in our area.”
The light show has been in the making since May, which Conrad said was a fast timetable for a production of this extent. Stan Hywet hired Holiday Technologies in Shawnee, Kan., to create the computer program that runs that light show, and Stan Hywet staff member Joe Ott made the botanical shapes that are covered in lights. Volunteers from Stan Hywet’s garden committee joined the estate’s horticultural team in wrapping all the elements in lights.
Holiday Technologies’ owner, Drew Hickman, created the program that operates the tree lights, while a programmer on his staff handled the rest of the show’s elements.
Hickman said he started with a layout of the Great Garden and figured out where the controllers would need to go. Then he turned his programming staff loose to envision a lighting spectacular.
It’s a process that marries creativity and technology, said Hickman, who was tweaking the show on his laptop computer in the Stan Hywet offices shortly before the first run-through last month. “There’s kind of an art and a science to it,” he said.
A certain amount of trial and error is involved. Although a computer simulation shows what the lights will look like, it’s not the same as seeing the actual show, he said. That’s why Hickman was on site to make adjustments before Deck the Hall opened, joking he could be in for a long night.
The show involves about 3,500 feet of electrical wire to run the 300,000 or so lights, but the use of LEDs cuts the power consumption by about 85 percent, Hickman said.
The light show is only one of the attractions at Deck the Hall. Twenty-one rooms in the Manor House are decorated for the holidays, their musical motifs taking their inspiration from either heaven or nature. Performances in the Music Room entertain visitors as they tour the house.
Santa lights the Christmas tree every night at 5:30 in the courtyard, where a fire is ready to warm visitors. An antique sleigh outside the Manor House and a large poinsettia tree in the Corbin Conservatory provide backdrops for family photos, and the conservatory’s Garden Under Glass is decorated with white poinsettias and blue and white lights.
Snacks and drinks are available, and the gift shop is open.
Visitors can also stroll the grounds to see not just the computerized light show, but the lights that twinkle all across the landscape. Conrad estimated the entire estate is illuminated with 750,000 lights — so many that it had to hire Cleveland company Horizon Lighting Systems to help the staff install all the lights.
The number could be even higher, she said. “You know, after a while you kind of lose complete track.”
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.