When I was young I developed a fascination with Christmas lights, like most young kids do. However while others' interest in Christmas lights faded, mine never did. Oh yeah, I was one of those kids that would hang Christmas lights in summer time in my club house, discreetly of course! Little did I know that later in life I would get to live out a dream that combines my youthful imagination, creativity and of course my love for the holidays!
We moved to Reno in 2001 after twelve beautiful years at Lake Tahoe. We were very excited about our new home and neighborhood. It was a wonderful experience meeting new friends. I couldn't ask for better neighbors, they are truly a blessing! We discovered Chase and Nadine were on the same page when it came to Christmas and in 2004 we started combining our efforts on decorative light displays. What a wonderful way of sharing Christmas joy. We connected our homes with a sleigh and reindeer for the first two seasons. Each season grew by adding a little more to our displays. It definitely made for a relationship and camaraderie that was filled with Christmas enthusiasm! A little before Christmas 2005 while surfing the web I saw the Carson Williams' display Wizards in Winter on You Tube. That was the first time I had ever seen Christmas lights synchronized to music. It was also the first time I had ever heard of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and WOW! I loved that song, and in 2008 when they performed in Reno we had to go! It was a fantastic experience and I can't wait to see them again – they are that amazing. My hat is off to Carson Williams for incorporating their music to his lights. I told Chase about it and he could see how excited I was. I'm not 100% sure if I infected him with my "lights" fever or if he always had it. In any case, he started doing some research and found out where to buy the software and controllers. YEAH!!! High fives were in order and not to mention a lot of cash! From that moment our show started and Lights of Tanea was born.
The first year we started programming in September and we ended up with seven songs. Chase and Nadine had a wonderful knack for knowing what Christmas songs would work well and so they picked out most of our selections. I loved what they came up with!
Like most ventures it's probably a good thing we didn't know how hard those first songs would be. We never realized the HUGE amount of time it would take to program a song. We ended up programming up to the last minute and kept adjusting during the show. Even though I have never logged my time in programming any of our songs, I have read that the average song takes up to 40 hours; let's just say I believe it! After the programming we still had to hang the Christmas lights. A little overwhelmed, we each started with two controller boxes (for lights geeks like me that may be reading this, this gave us 32 separate channels) and on my house alone I used over 4,000 feet of extension cords. I had to install additional outdoor circuits to keep up with the extra amps needed. I've always been a jack of all trades and master of none, which definitely helped on this project. I ended up having to learn quite a bit of computer skills to work my way through a light program of this magnitude. I am self-taught and found the computer fun with all the daily challenges it presented, AND STILL DOES!
Chase came up with the idea of fundraising for charity and chose Evelyn Mount's Outreach Program. Evelyn is a local lady (a saint) who collects food for the needy. We weren't sure if the show would attract anyone, let alone be able to collect anything worthwhile for charity. We handed out candy canes, met our guests, answered questions and told our story. The people of Reno proved to be so generous and came together for this great cause. The 2006 event was a success and a lot of fun. Word of mouth was so powerful, and we learned that a lot of colorful lights flashing on and off can help a community. There were more visitors than we ever could have imagined.
In 2007, after seeing the success of collecting food items for Evelyn Mount, I decided to start collecting used clothing for Friends of Multiple Sclerosis and cash donations for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. These organizations do so much good searching for a cure and helping those inflicted by Multiple Sclerosis. The people who work for these organizations have done a great job walking me through the ins and outs of getting set up with them and I have truly been inspired by them. I credit their ability to get the word out for making our 2007 event a huge success!
I started working on the 2007 show in January. A lot of my changes were decided while watching the 2006 show. It really got my creative juices flowing. I went from 32 channels to 112 channels. I had visions of what I wanted to create. I talked to all my friends and family about it and bounced ideas off them. My sister-in-law's boyfriend, Steve, had an idea of using the same fiberglass poles that were used on sailboats. He thought they could handle the weight of the lights and could flex but not break in the wind and he even tracked some down for me. As it turned out, he was right. Those poles allowed me to add things to my display I never thought possible like the North Star that stands so high from the top of my roof that it can be seen from the freeway! I now also use this type of pole for "fireworks" as well. Another new addition in 2007 was what I dubbed "Star Rays" which are strings of light that flow from a star at the top of the house down to the lawn. This addition has become a favorite of mine and enables me to have some really fun effects. Finally, some of the other new additions to the show in 2007 were the piano keys and dancing roof nets. And the house would also turn Red! My patriotic year, Red, White and Blue!
The 2008 show was the start of new ideas and it grew again in size to 192 channels. Custom-made dancing, singing and toe-tapping Santa made his first appearance. The yard was taking on a new configuration; the color amber was now a part of the show making the house colors red, white, blue and amber! New songs were added and voilà! Lights of Tanea was off and running.
Creating new ideas for the 2009 show proved most difficult. I really tried to think outside the box and bring never before tried ideas to the table. The show increased in size to 256 channels. The fifth color was added to outline the house in red, white, blue, amber and green. Flying angels were also introduced, and three custom-made animated fireworks were added to fill the skyline! Fast and slow strobe lights were added for their special effects. Another set of leaping arches was added to the yard and the border of the lawn was lined with candy canes. Unfortunately, 2009 was without our neighbors’ participation which was sad to us and all that followed the show from the start. A sign of the times, Chase and Nadine moved to Texas where jobs were found. We continue to wish our great friends all our love and support.
In 2010, 96 channels were added for a total of 352. Lasers made their first appearance. They were used to cover most of the house and driveway, which turned out to be a lot of fun for the young. It was like cats chasing laser beams; when the laser lights came on, the driveway was filled with squealing, jumping and dancing little kids trying to step on the moving dots! Also new to the show were shooting stars and an animated firework over the lawn area. Three more custom-made animated fireworks were added – it was like Christmas met the 4th of July 4th! “Snappy Lou”, the voice of an elf, was introduced and he continues to be our very own voice for special announcements!
In 2011, custom-made animated characters were added. The idea was originated by Dennis Dyer and Kerri Schmitt when they watched a video of the Christmas Can-Can by Straight No Chaser. They imagined the fun of elves doing the can-can to the song and challenged me to bring this idea to life which led to three new characters. I was then able to put a face and body to Snappy Lou which made me very excited and again my creative juices started to flow. It took from February to June to make them, and I named the other two Peachie Lou and Chipper Lou. In all, 64 channels were added to the show for a total of 416! I still wanted more wow factors, if that wasn’t enough! More lasers were added along with fun lights just to do their work on the driveway. It worked!
The 2012 show is a year with no exception. I will add to the size as I have done every year. One of my wishes is a direct line to Mr. Edison but I don’t believe I’ll get it! This year’s show is named ‘SEEING IS BELIEVING!” and includes 480 channels and four new animated characters (two singing Christmas trees named Clipper Lou and Chilly Lou, and two singing ornaments named Tina Lou and Peppie Lou). The star rays are being updated to a 33 foot high MEGA TREE with a total of eight thousand L.E.D. lights. There will be more special effect lighting on the driveway as well as a first for Lights of Tanea – DMX controlled Christmas lights! Your first experience seeing them will be mine too! I hope to see you all out here enjoying a candy cane, hot chocolate and some Christmas cheer on us!
Through the years the show has grown in size and in the numbers of guests who attend. The challenges every year become much greater, but what a great community we have here in northern Nevada! Special thanks to Reno Forklift (George and Pat Pimpl), Broline Integrated Systems (Jeff Broline), TJ Crawford, Bruce Bryant, PDI ( Adam Botts), Linda Lott and her team, Mary Griewe, Reno Tahoe Limousine, Tina Vrtiska, Great Clips (Carrie Winchell and her team), Eagle Energy (Donald Brown), neighbors Gary and Regina Romero, Gary and Gena Turner, Pat and Diana Vrtiska, Bill and Carol Henderson, Reanne, Victor and Theresa, Jared and Jana Buck, a neighborhood that is second to none, and all of our outstanding volunteers! And to my most wonderful wife, Kerri, and daughter, Chelsea. This support is appreciated and will never go unnoticed.
Thank you all for your kindness and generosity!
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