Madison's Christmas House
Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:00 AM
It's not exactly as blinding as the home from the classic holiday movie, "Christmas Vacation," but Frank and Alice Bye's elaborate display of more than 44,000 lights synchronized to upbeat, holiday tunes is enough to stop visitors in their tracks.
Frank and Alice Bye’s home on Franks Drive is a shining example of Christmas light decorations. Frank Bye uses computers to orchestrate the sights and sounds. He said that his lawn decoration planning is a year-round process. He has already started to pick music out for the 2013 display. After the songs are selected he will decide which lighting elements to use and then start his choreography of light and music. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
The songs for this year's holiday display are:
London Symphony Orchestra
"Bruce Broughton's Overture"
"The Chipmunk Song"
"Dueling Jingle Bells"
U.S. Navy Band
"Christmas with a Capital C"
"Carol Of The Bells"
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
And their cars.
"Last year - about four or five days before Christmas - I went around the side of the house and I counted 20 cars," said Frank Bye, who lives at 2561 Franks Drive.
For the past five years, the couple has treated fellow Madison residents and visitors to its Christmas-themed production, which is completely computerized and choreographed to music.
"It gives me something to do," said Bye, who is retired from Indiana-Kentucky Electric. "Everybody's got to have a hobby."
The show, which started the day after Thanksgiving, will run until New Year's Eve. Times are 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The show lasts for 18 minutes and 6 seconds, and passersby can tune in to 107.1 on the FM dial to hear the music accompaniment for the lights.
The lights will not be turned on in the rain.
A few etiquette rules do apply, such as not blocking driveways, keeping all litter in vehicles, not using driveways to turn around and no car horn honking.
The couple has their own Website, www.madisonchristmashouse.com, where they have uploaded videos, pictures and provided details about the process.
The Byes moved to the neighborhood in 1984. They always "went big" for Christmas - even winning a city decorating contest in the 1980s - but they decided to computerize things once their children moved out.
This year, Bye said he spent about 200 hours between synching and setting up the light displays. It takes about four to five days to set up the displays and one full day to tear everything down.
They start checking the lights in September, and then actually start installing everything shortly after Halloween, or the last time they cut the grass for the year.
When the displays are taken down, the Byes have a special out building for all of the more than 44,000 lights, which are commercial-grade and designed to endure weather conditions.
It's certainly laborious, but the payoff is getting to see cars full of children gawking and laughing with excitement at the displays.
"To me, there is nothing more precious than a little kid laughing," Bye said. "I just love it."
Bye uses computer equipment called Light-O-Rama to program the display. There are 16 different controllers hooked into one master computer, which is programed to start every day and runs on a timer.
"I push it once after Thanksgiving and another time on New Year's," he said.
This time of year, the couple's yard has a web of extension cords and light strands. In fact, Bye estimates that he uses more than 1 mile of extension cord. About 90 percent of the lights are LEDs, too, which he said cuts down on electric costs.
Each year, Bye selects a new lineup of Christmas tunes and then begins the long process of programming the show. He said every minute of music requires eight to 12 hours of programming.
Bye said he had little experience in computer programming before he started the project.
"There's a fairly large learning curve," he admits. "But once you learn it, it's just time consuming."
He also makes small changes now and then. Last year, a few of the display were moved around after hours, so the couple has since installed a security camera and security lights.
In the future, he said he hopes to take donations from visitors that will go toward local charities like "Shop With a Cop."