Reporting Colin Smith
APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) – It’s a show that would put Clark Griswold to shame.
On a sleepy Apple Valley street just a few miles West of the Minnesota Zoo, is one of the Twin Cities’ finer holiday light displays — a spectacular show of color and motion, all synchronized to its very own radio station.
It’s the holiday passion of Mark and Esther Anderson, who since 2007 have been bringing joy to passers-by of all ages, and attracting visitors from all corners of the metro area.
“It’s really something we love to do,” Mark Anderson said. “We love to see the kids in the neighborhood dancing or the older folks getting a kick out of the display. It’s a way for us to spread the Christmas spirit.”
And they do it in a big way. The display is made up of about 50,000 lights sprinkled across bushes and snaking up tree limbs, stretching from the curb to the tip of the roof.
A computer inside the house runs the ultra-local radio station 91.9 FM, which only covers a few hundred feet, just enough so families can sit in their cars without getting cold.
Under a blanket of snow, a stretch of extension cords more than a mile long connect the display to a 12-circuit separate electrical box in the garage, preventing a power overload.
“It draws about 160 amps — with all of the lights turned on,” Mark Anderson said. ‘That’s (the equivalent of) about 1,600, 100-watt light bulbs.”
But, as he is quick to point out, the lights are almost never all on at the same time. They fade on and off in a coordinated display that reflects a lot of his long hours and hard work.
The display is separated into hundreds of different strands, each with a different label. While considering the rhythm of the music, Mark Anderson designs when each strand turns on and turns off, not unlike a composer putting together an intricate piece of music.
“I would say I’m more like an arranger,” he said. “Each minute of music takes about six hours to design so…yeah, we put a lot of effort into it.”
The payoff is a stunning nine-track playlist that ranges from classics (“Winter Wonderland”) to high-octane (“Techno Jingle Bells”) to Heavy Metal (Skillet’s “Hero”). The entire display lasts more than 30 minutes.
On a busy night, the show will attract 100 cars per hour, a volume which begs an important question: How do the neighbors feel about all this?
“They’re so great about it,” Mark Anderson said. “Some of them will have Christmas parties and will watch the display from their front window (with a handheld radio). They have the inside view on it.”
This year, the show started on Nov. 27 and will run through Dec. 31 from 5 to 9:30 p.m. (If you’re going, please be considerate of neighbors and other drivers)
For directions and more information, click here.