At Home Light Street and Shining Light Avenue in southwest Las Vegas, one house shines brighter than the rest. From the apex of the roof to the sidewalk, thousands of lights flash in time to “Frozen’s” “Let It Go.” As the song crescendos, a line of blue light shoots from the hand of an Elsa cutout on the roof and flies across the street, where a tree suddenly sparkles and flashes. Artificial snow flutters down on their driveway.
The passers-by who stop their cars for a look are watching the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work.
Many residents across the Las Vegas Valley decorate their homes with lights, inflatable figures and other glowing accessories for Christmas. A subset of those take their displays a few steps further: with music and thousands of programmed lights, they put on a show.
From the moment Jeff and Karol Doody took their Christmas display down last year, they began to conceptualize and build their 2016 display. This is their fifth year putting on a Christmas lights show at their home, and it’s by far the most elaborate and ambitious one they’ve attempted, the Doodys say.
They conducted a survey on their website, christmasinvegas.weebly.com, to find out which songs and features viewers wanted this year. The website also gives viewers instructions on how to access their neighborhood and tune their car radios to hear the music.
The couple constructed wooden latticework to hold rows and rows of bulbs in place, and programmed those bulbs to flash in time with the music. They assembled the entire production, including mounting a snow machine on their roof and attaching a massive reservoir of snow fluid. Then, they frantically troubleshooted a few technical difficulties to ensure the production looked just right.
From the time the show debuted on Nov. 30 through the first week of January, they can relax a little. The 15-minute show plays on repeat from 5 to 11 p.m. every day. Though the display does require occasional upkeep — swapping out dead lights and refilling the snow machine — for the most part, this is their time to enjoy their handiwork and the handiwork of others in Las Vegas and across the country when they take their annual Christmas vacation with their 4-year-old son, Elijah. This year, they’ll take a road trip through Oklahoma and Texas to see the most prominent Christmas lights displays and attend a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert.
“There’s nothing that I’d rather do, period, than go see shows … shows like what we have,” Jeff Doody says.
“You’ve got three hours a night, in one month, that you can actually see shows, and that’s what I want to spend every minute that we have doing.”
HOME LIGHTS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Buying their house in 2009 was a big deal for Jeff and Karol because it meant they could start amassing their own holiday collection. Neither grew up celebrating Christmas as much as they would have liked to, which, Jeff says, is part of the reason they celebrate it so monumentally now.
Karol grew up in foster care in Minnesota, and rushing to open gifts from Santa wasn’t part of her Christmas morning. “We had the one Christmas tree and that was about it,” Karol says.
Nonetheless, it was always a special time for both of them, something they realized when they began dating in 2006.
“I think, growing up, that was where things were the most normal, where you really felt like everything was OK,” Karol says.
When they first put on a show in 2011, they used “Mr. Christmas,” a preprogrammed kit available at home improvement stores that flashes lights along to preselected music.
“That just wasn’t enough,” Jeff says.
Their hobby — or what some might call obsession — really took hold after they saw an elaborate light show at a Henderson home that same year. Then, in 2012, they began programming their own shows. Each year since, the Doodys have added new features to their display, consulting Facebook groups and other locals when they hit roadblocks, and scouring post-Christmas sales for new supplies.
Though it isn’t a lot, Jeff says, the family puts nearly all of their disposable income toward the annual Christmas light show. Throughout the year, it also takes most of Jeff’s free time. Then, in the fall, he takes time off from his job at Margaritaville in the Flamingo to complete the project, often working 12-hour days.
Some years the couple has been able to take a break from their Christmas project, but not this year. “We added so much new stuff that we knew there was no time to take a break. So we got right to it,” Jeff says.
THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR
What makes the time and money worth it? That’s something Jeff Doody has put some thought into during the past two years. “I think, number one, overall, it’s something to look forward to. And I think everybody needs that, a goal, something to achieve, something to be striving for in life other than just going to work every day,” he says.
Their 4-year-old son Eli recognizes what a big production his family’s Christmas light show is, because his parents have less time to play with him. Jeff hopes he takes from that the value of hard work and the rewards it can reap.
But they also want him to remember those feelings of goodwill and cheer and, ultimately, magic that they didn’t necessarily feel during their own childhoods.
“The magic of Christmas, and the special feeling that you get,” Karol says, “I think we really do want him to experience that and to have that as he grows up.”
Read more from Sarah Corsa at reviewjournal.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @sarahcorsa on Twitter.