We are live, Christmas 2021

Not a lot of items got completed on schedule, but fortunately the schedule was forgiving enough that I got everything finished with about 3 hours to spare. Unfortunately because of current COVID restrictions we could not have our usual light up party for the 2nd straight year. This severely impacts our fundraising efforts as we traditionally collect about 50% of the donations on the first night from friends and family.

With the light up, our fundraising effort is officially launched. If you have the means please drop off a food package in our donation bin or donate to the Food Bank online, any donations are greatly appreciated and help make a happy holidays for those who really need it.

TOP NEEDS…………………
Canned Tomatoes
Kraft Dinner
Canned Beans (no pork)
Canned Fruit
Peanut Butter
The Calgary Food Bank needs more support than ever as food banks across Alberta saw a 30% increase in access in 2021 and are expecting a tidal wave of need as a perfect storm of Pandemic related job losses, high housing costs and drastically raising food cost hit the province.

This year I have added a few new songs: Come Look at My House by Haymaker Comedy (Video at bottom), J5 Medley by the Jackson five, We all need Christmas by Def Leppard (I added this as they are my neighbors favorite band). I’ll likely add a couple more before the end of the season as I’ve already got some requests from the kids. From a display perspective I added eight new North Poles to the four I had last year. I also added four additional arches to the four I had last year. I built eight bucket lights from ice cream pails, and also added matrix panels to the upper story of the house. Finally we added two (Ralphie and Zuzu) of the Light-O-Rama singing trees. Getting the lights installed ran into more scheduling challenges than technical or weather related ones, mostly due to the kids hockey schedule.

I had taken the Friday (Nov 12th) after Remembrance day off to have a 4 day weekend to work on the install. Remembrance day ended up being a total write off as we had put the kids in skills camps on opposite sides of the city so I spent all the daylight hours shuttling, waiting for, or feeding kids.

Friday we had some camps in the morning but I got to attack the big spruce in the afternoon. This is a five step process: net lights, RGB Lights, Star, Really Big lights and decorative balls. Saturday was installing the pixel tree and the RGB stocking’s on the house.

On Sunday it was on to the Pixel borders, I’d prefer to wait another week or two to put these up but they set the position for everything else in the yard. once the panels were in place it was the RGB candy canes, the arches and the North poles.

This is when my my first issue showed up, one of the new arches I built didn’t have a good connection where I had joined two sections of RGB strip lighting and one of the arches from last year wasn’t working at all. After a couple of attempts at adding new sections to the malfunctioning strip I finally just cut down a new strip. I repurposed the good part of the old strip to add some lights to my front step that will remain year round. The other one that wasn’t working, the wire had gotten scuffed during storage, a quick cut and solder back together had it working again.

Even after a productive weekend I was still a little behind, I wanted to do some work through the week to catch up. I usually don’t like working in the dark as I tend to break more things than make progress, then I realized I had a reliable light source,. I turned all the lights on in white and had near daylight to work in. This allowed me to get all the Dumb DMX RGBs (North Poles & Bucket lights) connected. Other night time projects for the week included getting the second power supply built for the dumb RGBs. We also had a little accident, where I mistakenly assumed the driveway ended at the cement, but not everyone feels that way.

I also saw some giant (4 ft) Candy Canes at Home Depot so I had to add some of them. Another thing I had been looking for since I got my initial set was some Really Big Lights. I got my set from Spirit of Christmas for $10 when they were tearing down the store post Christmas, I had found some on eBay but they were $140 USD with another $140 shipping charges. I really wanted more but not $300 bad. Then a set showed up locally on Kijiji, I immediately grabbed them, by the time I got home another listing with four sets appeared. I arranged to buy these too. When I arrived to pick them up the seller had discovered seven sets which he sold to me for the price listed for four. Super deal but now I had way more than I needed, but there is no such thing as too many lights.

The next weekend was about finishing off the borders, adding the newly acquired really big lights, Installing the singing Trees and beginning the ground decorations, electronics upgrades (windows and LOR software updates) and setting up the audio, There were still a few things to finish but we were now functionally complete where any lights not installed were just part of a bigger group and wouldn’t be missed as part of the show. The only challenging part of all of this was getting the singing trees working (the challenges ended up being user error), when I finally figured those out everything went smoothly.

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On the last day before light up there were some ground decorations to install, the singing Santa, and the installation of the garage and fence banners and the Nutcracker. This was all pretty simple stuff. When I did get the show running the Singing Santa wasn’t working, after a little troubleshooting I had it assigned to the wrong network in the LOR preview. Here we were, all done with 3 hours to spare and one hockey practice before the lights turned on,

The light up was pretty anti climactic as we usually have 100+ people in our house and on the street for the event, but we could not do this due to the current COVID restrictions. Hopefully restrictions will be removed before Christmas so we can have some friends over as this provides a great opportunity for our fund raising effort. The neighbors did have all their grand kids over to watch so we set up a firepit and watched from across the street for a couple of hours.

Overall the install went relatively smooth, we had incredible weather in November (the warmest I can remember). The only challenge with the warm is that a few of my North poles and my matrix panels have developed a bit of a lean from the strong winds we have had. Usually the ground is frozen solid when I install these items so they do not move.

The show will be running until January 2nd, 6-10pm Sunday to Thursday, 5-10:30pm Friday & Saturday. We will be collecting food donations in the bin at the front of the display as well as online. I will post the videos I capture throughout the season on the video page. I will also be creating some unique shows: I will have a kids hour that will have more kid friendly upbeat sing along type songs from 6:30-7:30pm each night. The heavy half features heavier songs by hard rock or heavy metal artists and plays 9:30-10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Now that’s what I call Christmas, this album is the sound track of Christmas from my youth and has the most popular Christmas pop songs from the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. It plays in its entirety on Saturday nights from 8-9pm and on repeat through the day on Christmas eve and Christmas day, I have added these shows to help keep some of the more obscure things to select hours. Last year the heaviest song I have came on while a bus of seniors were outside watching. I had the play list on random when I looked out and saw the bus my only thought was please don’t pay Merry Axe-mas by Ice Nine Kills next, but sure enough…

Overall it was a relatively problem free install and the light up went off on schedule without a hitch. Now it is time to sit back and enjoy the show.

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