Couple redefines Christmas cheer with holiday lights

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Their front yard Christmas display cannot yet be seen from a low-earth orbit, but Darlene and John Antoniewicz are working on that.

For the fourth straight year, the Antoniewicz's home at 4820 Millbrooke Road is a dazzling array of music, dancing Christmas trees, reindeer, animated Santas and lights -- lots and lots of lights.

"A few years back, I was flipping around on the Internet and I saw a You Tube video of a decorated house set to music and I wondered how much it would cost to put something like that together," John, the Dougherty County IT director said.

A trip to Lowe's by Darlene a few days later planted the seed of inspiration in her.

"I saw three big animated Christmas trees that were 50 percent off and they wanted $250," She recalled. "I thought that was too much, but as I walked away I could hear the trees calling to me, 'Darlene, Darlene ...' So I turned around and bought them."

She later bought John two light controllers (each controller can manage 32 channels) for a birthday present and the adventure was on. They've been adding to the display each year since.

The Antoniewiczes have a different theme each year. This season's theme is "The House on Christmas Street," highlighted by a 60-by-54-inch projection of Santa on their front picture window conducting the music.

The couple add to the decorations each year. They make many of the decorations themselves, learning from PlanetChristmas.com and at a Texas Lights Workshop they attended in 2008.

There are 12 songs sequenced to the display's more than 10,000 lights, which are animated to the music by a specialized computer program called Light-O-Rama.

Throughout the year, John spends many hours each week sequencing the lights to each song. Each beat in the music is sequenced to more than 700 light channels. He says it takes about a month to sequence each song.

It takes about six weeks to set up the light show and the couple transmits the music via their own low-power FM radio station so passers by can hear the music in their vehicles. Just tune your radio to 88.3 FM.

Lots of work, sure, but the Antoniewiczes say it is worth the effort.

"It makes us feel good to see people stop in a beat-up car, maybe the father just lost his job," Darlene said. "Then they'll tell us we really made their Christmas. It's a very good feeling."

John agrees.

"We don't have any kids of our own, and this is our contribution to the children of our community," he said. "And when you see the expression of wonder and amazement in the people's eyes as they drive past, well, it's very satisfying for us."