Camas home bright with holiday lights
john pfeiffer synchronizes his 55,000-light display with 17 christmas tunes
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
CAMAS — Lights dance in the night at a Camas couple’s home from Thanksgiving until after the new year.
When John Pfeiffer, 64, first saw a “synchronized” Christmas light show, he wanted to create his own. The retired Camas man has always decorated for Christmas, but three years ago animated his 55,000-light display.
Pfeiffer starts hanging lights around the first of November and the show begins on Thanksgiving evening. Although he hires out the roof lighting and has a neighbor help put up the 25-foot “spiral mega tree,” Pfeiffer does the decorating himself. His kids are grown and his wife, Ruth, is in charge of the inside, he said.
Showtimes are 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 4430 N.W. Crystal Court, Camas. Shows will continue through Jan. 8.
The Pfeiffer home is one some 20 displays recommended to The Columbian.
Each year, the Pfeiffer display gets bigger and more people hear about it. Thanksgiving weekend, “We had very heavy traffic we weren’t expecting,” he said.
See our interactive map at http://www.columbian.com/clark-county-christmas-lights-map/.
They live in a normally quiet cul-de-sac above Lacamas Lake.
The light show that includes shooting stars, mini-trees, lighted arches, and 10-foot “fire sticks” is sequenced to 17 Christmas songs on Pfeiffer’s own frequency, 87.9 FM. The station is an open frequency that only runs during the show. And according to FCC rules, the frequency can only be picked up within a short distance from the house.
To set up the show, Pfeiffer bought a low-power transmitter, loaded the music onto his computer along with the lighting software, Light-O-Rama. The lights are daisy-chained together between 19 light-controller boxes and programmed on the computer in time to the music.
Pfeiffer uses around 100 amps for the display and spends between $100 to $150 a month extra on his power bill. He’s slowly transitioning to LEDs; the mega tree has a few strings, but he hasn’t found many he feels are reliable. So far this year, he hasn’t had to change any burned-out lights.
Why go to all this work for a few weeks out of the year?
“Just to spread a little Christmas joy in the world,” Pfeiffer said.
And it seems to be working. Jill Watts said in a Facebook post, “We just drove by the Pfeiffers’ home tonight! It’s a different music selection every year so the light show is amazing every time.”
The biggest challenge for Pfeiffer is using electronics in wet weather. This year when he was programming the light show, it was the rainiest time of the year. You have to be cautious that nothing touches the ground, he said. “If the connections get wet on the ground, they short out.”