SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KCAU) — The homes lining Baywood Court in Sergeant Bluff look alike this time of year, with one exception, 510 Baywood Court.
Before the Greathouse Family Light Show comes to life, there is still work to be done. A lot of work.
“It’s overwhelming! Even every year when I go to the basement and look at some stuff and try to figure out how to install it. Where do I start?” said Jay Greathouse.
For Jay Greathouse, it’s by reminding his wife that he’s going to be worried for a few months.
“In September, she becomes a widow because all the free time is devoted to the lights. She rolls her eyes and asks ‘what are we doing this weekend?’ I know what I’m doing. These are the lights,” Greathouse said.
2021 marks the 5th year that Jay will entertain thousands of stop-and-drive people with his lively music and LED light show.
“It probably goes back to the young kid helping his dad put up the Christmas lights when he was a kid and that’s how it all started,” Greathouse said.
“Absolutely mesmerized by how each individual light bulb could be programmed, that’s when I got hooked and had to figure this out. That’s how it all started,” Greathouse said.
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 of this.
Unlike Santa Claus, Jay has a limited number of elves to call upon.
“I started testing the lights and seeing if they work, hooking them up to the controller, and that’s how I start, then slowly go through it all, then just get into a rhythm,” said said Jay.
The details that come before spread joy to the masses.
“I have eight or nine controllers in the series. The brain would be the computer itself; the controller is some kind of electronic device that tells the lights to turn on and off,” Greathouse said. “Once you put them on the house, test them again to make sure they work once they’re installed on the house, because sometimes they test well in the basement; it goes up on the house, it doesn’t not working.
A warm start to the holiday season gives Jay another reason to be grateful: a clean work surface.
“These controllers get power and then the network that goes to the computer that tells the lights to turn on and off, creating a computer network outside of my house,” Greathouse said. “Last year this one hung out the back in a storm. I probably lose a few hundred lamps a year that I change out in the middle of the season.
A 20-song season is planned, consisting of 4 or 5 10-minute shows.
“The other day when the 50 mph winds came up, it freaked me out. Sitting in the front room listening to this stuff. It freaks me out,” Greathouse said.
And there is something to shake up.
“Seven to eight thousand individual bulbs. Not that much compared to others, but the impact is much greater. You don’t need so many lights when you have the option of flashing them to all the different songs. That’s the equivalent of 100,000 actually what you might see in someone,” Greathouse said.
Jay flipped the switch on this year’s Christmas show last week.
“It can be a bit stressful to receive 500 cars in one night. Usually the Saturday before Christmas is the busiest,” Greathouse said.
As long as the alleys in the neighborhood are not blocked, the show continues until New Year’s Day.
“We will have themed evenings. People want to come several nights. Tradition, children, rock and roll, Christian artists,” Greathouse said.
- Friday – Country
- Saturday – Fun for the kids
- Sunday – Christian Artists
- Monday – 80s, 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 be dusting the rooftops for years to come, this holiday probably won’t be.
“Two or three more years, then I have to withdraw the series. Sad, but I can’t do this forever,” Greathouse said.
And when that happens, Baywood Court won’t be the same.
Jay is fundraising this year for Siouxland Youth For Christ. You can donate on Venmo @SiouxlandYFC or directly on their website at www.siouxlandyfc.org.