Driving by Patrick Chartrand’s house during Christmas time, the Christmas lights seem to twinkle sporadically. Stopping at his house and turning the radio to 88.9, however, creates a spectacular show.
For the past five years, Chartrand, Network/Systems Manager at Hillsdale College’s Information Technology Services, has created a Christmas light show synchronized to music he broadcasts on the radio. Located in Coldwater, the show runs from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Chartrand’s show includes nine mini trees, three arches, a nativity scene, candy canes, snowflakes on the roof, a light-up wreath, and a video projector. Each individual piece lights up at different points in time with the music.
The show consists of eight songs including “Little Drummer Boy,” “Blessed is the Child,” and “Jingle Bells.”
Every few songs, an infomercial is played. One includes a message to stay out of the neighbors’ driveways. Another advertises a food drive that Chartrand holds for the local food bank.
Another infomercial reminds listeners that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” The show serves as a “family ministry,” Chartrand said.
Most songs played are Christian themed.
“It’s Christmas. I want to do it for what Christmas stands for,” Chartrand said.
Cars stop stop constantly each night of the show. Chartrand has seen some cars wait 45 minutes to get a closer view of the house.
Meredith from Coldwater visits with her children a few times every year.
“I drove by one day after work and knew I had to bring my kids,” she said.
Another family, who goes to church with Chartrand, drives from Quincy to see the lights.
“The music is good. The color is good. It is all good,” the father said.
Chartrand knows one 10-year-old boy who has to stop by every night and listen to “Jingle Bells” before he can fall asleep.
Chartrand has noticed that few Hillsdale students drive to Coldwater to visit his house.
After a visit to the Dutch Uncle doughnut shop, sophomore Jake Adkins decided to stop at the lights.
“I loved how the lights perfectly matched the music,” Adkins said. “It really put me in the Christmas spirit.”
The Christmas light show is a year-long project for Chartrand. He begins choosing songs in the summer. Using software called “Lightorama,” he then works until Christmas, editing the lights to be synchronized with music. Every song “takes forever,” Chartrand said.
With the help of his family, Chartrand sets up the lights and different displays on Thanksgiving. After they are finished, they watch the entire show together as a family.
“The past five years have been fun,” Chartrand said.
Even though he uses 35,000 different lights, the cost of Chartrand’s electricity bill has not changed significantly since he is doing the show instead of using traditional lights.
Chartrand attributes this consistency to two factors. The first is that the lights are only on for a few hours every night. The second is that they have converted to LEDs, which use less power.
Chartrand decided to begin his light show after watching “Wizards and Winter” on Youtube, which shows a house synchronized with Christmas lights.
“I saw this house and I thought, ‘I know computers. I ought to know how to do it,’ ” Chartrand said.
Every year Chartrand adds a high-priced item to his show. These changes include the video projection and the arches in the past.
“I have crazy ideas for next year,” Chartrand said.
For more information, visit Chartrand’s website at www.coldwaterlights.com.