Tillsonburg’s Helping Hand Food Bank will benefit from Chris and Rebecca Parker’s Christmas lights display this year.
“I’ve got quite a few boxes of food donations already,” said Chris Parker, who will continue collecting food until Dec. 22, and turned it in Dec. 23.
Visitors tune in to 106.9 FM to listen to five songs he timed with the lights at their home on the north end of Denrich Avenue in Tillsonburg.
Jake Deming, who has a music and lights display on Pearl Street (90.1 FM), is also collecting for the food bank until Dec. 21. Another music-and-lights home to visit in Tillsonburg is located at 7 William Street (106.5 FM).
“It’s been received really well this year,” said Chris, who turned on this year’s Denrich Ave. display Dec. 4. “People are so happy. I just had a lady stop while I was outside fixing some stuff up from last night’s wind, she told me how wonderful it was that I was doing it. Her grandson was there and he was asking how it runs.
“Just seeing the smiles on kids faces. It’s cool just to bring some joy to the community. In a difficult and challenging year… it’s nice to make people happy.”
In 2016, Chris and Rebecca won the Best Use of Music with Lights category in Tillsonburg’s annual Christmasfest Light Decorating Contest. Chris remembers talking about about how much time it took to complete the award-winning project. Although the Christmasfest is now dormant, the Parkers have continued their light-decorating tradition and the time spent coordinating music with lights is still staggering.
“It’s very time consuming,” said Chris. “It really depends how much effort you want to put into the songs. On average it takes upwards of 10 hours per song to program. I usually bank for about three hours per minute for each song.”
He uses a Light-O-Rama software package, breaking down the music using 1/10th of a second intervals.
“You can see where the ups and downs are throughout the music – where you want your brightness on. This year, at our place here, I have a lot more yard to cover so I built my stuff, then did my music afterwards. I wanted to make sure there was enough on and it didn’t look like there were just a few things with lights here and there.
“It is very time consuming,” he added with a laugh.
The Parkers have seven huge labeled storage totes to store the 10,000-plus lights and extension cords.
“I was talking with Jake (on Pearl Street) and he has 33,000 lights,” said Chris. “I have less, but that’s because I changed all the colours on mine this year. In the past (on Queen Street) I had a whole bunch of different colours – this year I toned it down to just green, red and white.”
They have bigger plans for next year, but that’s ‘for the future.’
“Jake had stopped to visit the second year that I did the Light-O-Rama stuff and he said, ‘you’re the reason I’m into this light display.’ Now we talk quite a bit as Christmas gets closer and I think we’re going to work together a little bit next year on some things.”
Tillsonburg has an impressive number of homes and businesses with Christmas lights this year, said Parker.
“We drove around last night and there’s a number of houses and neighbourhoods – you can tell people are matching their neighbours. It’s awesome to see because it really does show a sense of community.
“We don’t need to have a competition, it’s more about just making people happy in the community,” Parker summed up. “And keeping people in the community as well. If we don’t put up displays like this people are driving elsewhere to go and see stuff. And the more benefit you can bring to the community, the better.”