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Christmas lights that delight

Lights delight, 2012


    You probably can’t see it from space, but Kelly Jones’ Christmas light show certainly brightens Willow Drive in Tabor City.
    “It’s about 70,000 lights this year,” Jones, Cultural Arts Director for the Columbus County Schools, said. “It’s about 5,000 more lights than last year, but the production is very similar.”
    It’s a labor of love that combines Jones’ background in theater lighting, his love of music, and passion for technology.
    It takes a lot of work.
    Stringing wire began right after Halloween, and some cold, rainy days in November was a hindrance.
    “I was out there, in the rain,” Jones said. “It just slows you down.”
    So, why all the work?
    “Insanity, probably, I think is the main reason,” he said with a laugh. “I really started this for my kids. They love Christmas and are fascinated by Christmas lights.”
    Word of mouth has brought plenty of onlookers to Willow Drive, just off of NC 410 and just north of US 701. There’s a musical accompaniment to the lights, available on the car radio. A sign out front tells how to tune the radio, with the frequency changing for best reception on any given night.
    Light-O-Rama is the computer program driving the light show, sequencing lights, dimmers, all through a spread-sheet type system. It’s somewhat automatic, but getting the show just right is anything but.
    “You have to go through manually and tell it what to do,” Jones said. “I’ve got 80 channels. One song, three minutes, takes about nine hours to get right.”
    Making folks happy, through these lights, is well worth the cost in lights, and $75 or so in electricity, the project costs, Jones said. In fact, he’d like to go bigger.
    “Money and current are my stopping points,” he said.
    Jones said he feels rewarded as folks enjoy the show.
    “Any time you can contribute to anyone’s happiness, you get that back many times over,” he said.
    Current presents a stopping point when the weather is wet, Jones said. It’s simply not safe for the show to go on in the rain, or when there is standing water.
    Otherwise, the show runs through Christmas, from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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