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It’s Lit! Tips for creating a light display that’s the envy of the neighborhood

Linda Lee Baird

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Byron Gunter has always been a holiday light enthusiast. While most kids save their allowance money for candy, toys, or new clothes, Gunter saved his for Christmas lights. “As a pre-teen, my display got so large it was featured in the local paper, and the rest was history,” he said.

It was an interest Gunter maintained into adulthood and brought with him when he moved to the Lucy Depp Park community in Powell in 2014. “One of the largest factors in buying my house was the ability to have a large Christmas light show,” he said. When Kevin Rhodus moved into the neighborhood a few months later, one of their first conversations was about the possibility of organizing a large-scale holiday light show. “Kevin brought the technical background needed to make it happen, and here we stand today, with one of the largest neighborhood light shows in Central Ohio,” Gunter said. The show now includes five neighboring houses over 7.5 acres in the Lucy Depp Park community.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Gunter and Rhodus, along with their neighbor Dave Johnson, answered some questions for (614) about how to set up your own fabulous holiday light display, and how they are giving back to the community through their show.

(614): Tell us about your setup process. What does it look like to organize this show?

BG: We start hanging lights in early September. It takes over two months to get everything up. There are over 200 trees, bushes, and props that are each individually controlled. We lost count of the exact number of strands a long time ago. In addition to hanging lights, we have to set up controllers, run data cabling, mount antennas and get all the infrastructure in place to make the show happen. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes involved to get 7.5-acres to all turn on and off at the same time.

(614): How do you organize the display across houses? Is the design collaborative, or does each house create its own display?

KR: Each year we have a dinner in early fall with all the families involved with the show to finalize our plans. Each house involved creates and hangs their own displays. Then we work collaboratively together to program it into one large continuous show.

(614): What is the process for programming your light show? Does the programming take the same amount of time every year?

KR: We start off programming the show by making our own soundtrack each year. We spend most of the spring and summer deciding what songs we want to use next year. From there, we use software to synchronize each tree to the soundtrack and create what is called a sequence. As we add more houses and more complex displays, the amount of time required grows exponentially. Last year it took approximately 80-100 hours to sequence the six-minute show. This year that number will increase a lot with all we added. Once the show is sequenced, we load it to multiple mini- computers (Raspberry Pi’s and Beaglebone’s) that control sections of the show and are tied together via a large network. We monitor everything connected to the network 24/7 and instantly get email alerts if any problems occur.

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(614): How does the show change from year to year?

BG: Each year the show gets larger and larger. We have kept a tradition of adding another house (or more) every year. We also are constantly evolving our displays. For example, pixels allow us to control each individual bulb in a string of lights. We grew from just one pixel tree last year to wrapping over 100 trees in pixels this year.

(614): Last year, you collected donations at the show to raise money for a local charity. Are you planning to do so again this year?

DJ: For the second year in a row, we are raising money for Peace for Paws Ohio. This organization is very close to us, as my wife is the Medical Director and on the Board of Directors. Peace for Paws rescues pets from high kill shelters across the state of Ohio. Many of the pets in the neighborhood are rescues from Peace for Paws.

(614): How much was raised last year?

DJ: Last year we raised over $5,000 dollars for Peace for Paws. The money went directly to help with the vet bills for many dogs and cats in their care.

(614): Do you have a sense of how many people visited?

DJ: We don’t have a final number but most nights we averaged somewhere between 200- 400 cars.

(614): What’s the cost of putting on this annual light show? Do you accept donations?

DJ: The cost of doing this is way more than our wives know. Almost all the lights are LED so there is very little increase to our electric bill. Almost all the cost is tied up in lights, extension cords, and controllers. Any donations we receive go to Peace for Paws.

(614): What’s an unexpected challenge you’ve experienced, and how did you overcome it?

BG: By far, traffic has been our largest unexpected challenge. We had no idea what the turnout would be the first year when we simply put out on Nextdoor that we were doing a light show. Within a day we had cars trying to go the opposite directions on one-lane roads and driving through yards to get around stopped cars. We quickly realized we needed to control the traffic and make the show one direction.

(614): What advice would you give to anyone who wants to elevate their holiday lights this year?

KR: Do it! There are tons of great online and local communities, [such as] Light Up Ohio, of Christmas light enthusiasts. It’s very easy to start with a small display and grow it each year. A lot of our fun we get out of doing the show is experimenting and trying new ideas each year.

(614): Anything you’d like to add?

DJ: We all got really lucky with the light show to be able to have a group of neighbors turn into a close group of friends. It has really brought our neighborhood together and gives us an amazing opportunity to give back to the surrounding communities.

This exchange has been lightly edited. For times and directions to Lucy Depp Park,, visit lucydepppark.wordpress.com.

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Things To Do

Brick by Brick: Lego popup bar is the ultimate nostalgia trip

614now Staff

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With playsets encompassing everything from Harry Potter to Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Legos remain a go-to for kids of all ages. Now, the colorful little blocks are preparing for their greatest team-up of all—with booze, of course!

A new popup event called "The Brick Bar" is bringing the fun of Legos to a bar near you for an exclusive 2-day engagement this March.

Bringing over 1 million blocks to the party, the event organizers will transform The Kitchen at 231 E Livingston Ave. with unique lego sculptures, as well as an abundance of blocks for people to shape into their own creations. Prizes for the best builders, DJs, and a ping-pong table (built entirely from Lego bricks, of course) are also in the mix for your nostalgia-driven enjoyment.

For ticket information, dates, and more, visit The Brick Bar Eventbrite page or follow them on Facebook.

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Things To Do

Hit Your Peak: 3 worth-the-drive ski slopes near Columbus

Asa Herron

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The cursed Ohio Winter Monster has made its presence known to all with its 5pm sunsets, snow storms, and seasonal depression for all. How are you going to fight back against the gloom this year? It may seem like it’s impossible to do fun things with your friends or to stay active in the winter, but I’m here to tell you that not all hope is lost. Finding a new hobby is a great way to kick your winter woes to the curb and start the new decade on a good foot.

Skiing can be a great way to casually exercise with friends and resuscitate your serotonin levels. Here are three high quality places to ski within driving distance of Columbus for you to check out.

MAD RIVER MOUNTAIN

Located in Zanesfield, Mad River Mountain is about an hour's drive northwest of Columbus. They have the most reasonable prices of all the nearby ski resorts. Plus, their on-property bar, The Loft, has 12 taps of craft beers on rotation to add a little more fun to the night. Mad River is open until 1 a.m. on Fridays, too, so you’re getting a full Friday night of flurries.

Mad River is home to over 20 trails (spanning 3.9 miles) and four terrain parks making it the largest ski resort in Ohio. They also bolster ten ski lifts (the most in Ohio) and are tied with Snowtrails for the largest vertical drop in the state with their 300 foot slope. An added perk of Mad River is that they just built a new $6.2 million facility in 2016 to replace the space they lost to a fire in 2015. Plus, most of their trails are designated “easy” difficulty. Mad River has everything you need to have a relaxing, affordable day of skiing.

Details on hours and pricing can be found at www.skimadriver.com.

SNOWTRAILS

Founded in 1961, Snowtrails is Ohio’s oldest ski resort. It is located in Mansfield, so also about an hour drive north. This resort is only slightly more expensive, with lift rates starting at $31 for midweek evenings and $52 for all-day on the weekends, with skis, boots, and pole rentals are $37. If there’s one day this month that you visit Snowtrails, let it be January 25 for their mid-season party. Get ready for an outdoor DJ, a custom built snowbar, and a fireworks show 30 minutes after the slopes close for the night. Not into skiing? No problem! The party is free and open to the public, so let your expert friends hit the slopes while you hit the spirits at the snow bar.

Snowtrails is the second largest resort in the state with six ski lifts and 3.3 miles of trails. The majority of their trails are designated “intermediate” difficulty, so more experienced skiers will enjoy their time here.

More information can be found at www. snowtrails.com.

BOSTON MILLS & BRANDYWINE

Boston Mills & Brandywine is the farthest ski resort from Columbus on this list, but great for a full weekend away. This quaint resort is in Peninsula, OH is a two hour drive from Central Ohio. Their pricing is $40 after 3:30 p.m. and $45 for an all-day pass. Staying another night? Come back on Saturday for $5 Late Nights admission from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM.

Boston Mill & Brandywine ski resort is known for being especially conducive to beginning skiers. They offer high quality lessons and will walk you through the process. This is the place to go if you have “stupid” questions about skiing, or just want to tube. However, they also appeal to veteran skiers as the majority of their 18 trails are designated “advanced”. Despite the high quantity of trails, this resort is much smaller than the other two, with only 1.2 miles of skiable trails, and their largest vertical drop being 264 feet. But for these prices? Could definitely be worth the trip.

Learn more about Boston Mills & Brandywine at www.bmbw.com.

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Arts & Culture

Watch: “World’s largest mural” in Short North is more than meets the eye

Regina Fox

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At a glance, "The Journey AR Mural" adorning the Graduate Columbus hotel in Short North is stunning. Look a little harder, and it actually comes to life.

Standing at over 107 feet tall and over 11,000 square feet of augmented reality, "The Journey AR Mural," is the world's largest AR mural, offering technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

The gaily-painted snapdragons, hibiscus, Easter lilies, and hummingbirds bloom and fly when viewed through the Journey AR Mural app (free for iPhone and Android). Watch the murals come to life in the video below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7PRvBxpBkI/

Los Angeles-based artists Ryan Sarfati and Eric Skotnes (going by “Yanoe” and “Zoueh," respectively) are the creatives behind the project.

In an interview with Short North Arts District, Skotnes revealed he was inspired to take on the project after learning that Columbus is home to the second largest population of Somali immigrants in the country—he hopes the murals symbolize strength and prosperity for its viewers.

To learn more about The Journey AR Mural, visit shortnorth.org.

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