SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KCAU) — The homes that line Baywood Court in Sergeant Bluff look similar at this time of year with one exception, 510 Baywood Court.
Before the Greathouse Family Light Show comes to life, there is work to be done. Lots of work.
“It’s overwhelming! Even every year when I go to the basement and look at stuff and try and figure out how to set it up. Where do I start?” said Jay Greathouse.
For Jay Greathouse, it’s by reminding his wife he’ll be preoccupied for a few months.
“Come September she becomes a widow because free time is all spent on lights. She rolls her eyes and asks ‘what are we doing this weekend?’ I know what I’m doing. It’s the lights,” said Greathouse.
2021 marks the 5th year Jay will entertain thousands who stop and drive by his animated music and LED light show.
“It probably goes back to the youth as a kid helping dad set up Christmas lights as a kid and that’s how the whole thing started,” said Greathouse.
“Absolutely mesmerized how each individual bulb could be programmed, that’s when I got hooked and had to figure this out. That’s how the whole thing started,” said Greathouse.
Adding, “You solder these wires together, and then you have to protect them. This is the mechanical aspect. You have to learn how to build all this stuff.”
Unlike Santa, Jay has limited elves to call on.
“I started testing lights and see if they’re working, hooking them up to the controller, and that’s the way I start and then I slowly go through all of it, then I get into a groove,” said Jay.
The details that come before spreading joy to the masses.
“I have eight or nine controllers in the show. The brain would be the computer itself; the controller is sort of the electronic device that tells the lights to switch on and off,” said Greathouse. “Once you put them on the house then retest it again to make sure it’s working once it’s up on the house because sometimes it tests fine in the basement; it gets up on the house, it doesn’t work.”
A warm start to the holiday season gives Jay something else to be thankful for: a clean work surface.
“These controllers have power and then the networking that goes to the computer that tells the lights to go on and off creating a computer network on the outside of my house,” said Greathouse. “Last year this one was hangin’ off the back in a storm. I probably lose a couple hundred lights a year that I change out in the middle of the season.”
A 20-song season is planned, making up 4 or 5, 10-minute shows.
“The other day when the 50 mile an hour winds happen it was freaking me out. Sitting in the front room listening to this stuff bang around. Freaks me out,” said Greathouse.
And there is plenty to bang around.
“Seven to eight thousand individual bulbs. Not that many compared to others, but the impact is much more. You don’t need that many lights when you have the ability to blink them on all the different songs. It’s the equivalent of a 100,000 actually what you might see at someone’s house,” said Greathouse.
Jay flipped the switch on this year’s yuletide spectacular last week.
“It can be a little stressful when you get 500 cars in a single night. Usually, the Saturday before Christmas is the busiest,” said Greathouse.
As long as neighborhood driveways don’t get blocked, the show continues through New Year’s Day.
“We’ll do theme nights. People want to come multiple nights. Tradition, kids, rock and roll, Christian artists,” said Greathouse.
- Friday – Country
- Saturday – Fun for Kids
- Sunday – Christian Artists
- Monday – 80’s, Rock and Pop
- Tuesday – Movie Night
- Wednesday – Modern Christmas
- Thursday – Traditional Christmas
Three to four songs a night, then repeating the show throughout the evening.
While Santa is guaranteed to dust off rooftops for years to come, this holiday happening likely will not.
“Two or three more years of this and then I have to retire the show. Sad but can’t do it forever,” said Greathouse.
And when that happens, Baywood Court won’t be the same.
Jay is raising funds this year for Siouxland Youth For Christ. You can donate on Venmo @SiouxlandYFC or directly on their website at www.siouxlandyfc.org.