Fond du Lac, WI
FDLLights - Lakeside Light Show
We’d like to thank all who have helped in the last 10 years because without you, the show could not have taken place! Below is a slideshow of some of the helpers throughout the years… Enjoy the pictures!
The start of madness everything! A small display on the side of my garage off of Grove street. Some interesting facts: Wizards of Winter by TSO was the last song in this show and continued to be the last song in every show. The Christmas riddles and the tree laugh were part of this show and continued in every show since. The voices and joke laugh had their pitch raised so it sounded more like the chipmunks or ‘elfish’. The host voice for all the shows, except one year, was my daughter Megan or better known as Balsam. The programming software (Light-O-Rama) was still new enough where I became a beta tester for new features. This software is still used for programming the lightshow to this day. The 2007 show brought only minor changes to the display above.
By 2008, a large tree was added along with the arches which provided a cute jumping effect! With all incandescent Christmas lights, I was quickly running out of power to expand much beyond what you see above. LED Christmas lights were too expensive at the time. Also, extension cords were a big cost of the display. Each arch needed 7 extensions cords that ran back to the garage. At the end of 2008, Joe Skelton from Nemesis Metals emailed me and asked to talk. He wanted to partner up and possibly move the light show to Lakeside Park. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity! With this in mind, we needed a bunch of lights to expand the show for 2009. At years end, a trip to Walmart’s Christmas clearance sale allowed the purchase of more than 4 pallets of Christmas lights!
This is the first year at Lakeside Park! The show was opposite of Oven Island facing the lake. The ‘grid’ was the first of its kind and allowed us to scroll text across the display. It was made with PVC pipe and 10,000 lights. One GFI outlet was being used for the radio transmitter. On Christmas night, the wet weather took out the outlet keeping the display lit, but shut down the sound. People not familiar with show were wondering what was so interested with all the blinking lights with no sounds on the radio station. Santa showed up this year and we had a big crew of Elf Voices for the scripted parts. It was always a fun time getting the voices ready for the show.
The show moved to its current location by the water treatment plant. The area was supplied with enough power for future expansion and large cement supports were put in the ground. The big addition this year were the chipmunks. The chipmunk song is still one of the most requested. The chipmunks stand about 7 ft tall and are outlined rope lighting. Turning the mouth lights on and off made it look like they were singing! The problem was keeping the names of the chipmunks straight when programming the voices.
The big addition this year were the 10ft tall singing snowman. Also, this is the first year that we had a heated trailer (fishing shack) which we needed to protect our new computer used to control the expanded number of lights and the new LED grid. The open bottom of the trailer allowed a couple of mice to find their way into command central. Ultrasonic modules were used to keep them away after that.
The 8-singing reindeer made their appearance this year! They were made out of a large aluminum box which had a cut out where a painted plastic reindeer was placed (all produced at Nemesis Metals). To light up the reindeer, 1000 watts of incandescent bulbs were used in each reindeer. A door in the back of each reindeer allowed us to change the bulbs when needed. We found out that the cold temps, the heat from the lamps and rainy weather didn’t allow the bulbs to last very long before they needed to be replaced.
The Peanuts characters made an appearance this year. They were lit up with LED flood lights instead of the incandescent bulbs. By turning on and off the 3 different poses, it made it look like the characters were dancing.
The Peanuts characters went away and the chipmuks came back after many requests. This year the trees helped with two wedding proposals. The couples names and the time/date were planned in advance and then during the show, the trees asked if there was a ‘girls name’ watching the show. After a short time of finding her, we displayed ‘Will you marry me’ on the big screen.
Many additions this year. A full Piano was added (this was huge - see the picture below!) Each white key consists of two LED flood lights. Initially we were going to light up the black keys with purple lights, but figured this may be too difficult to see. The piano parts of some songs (alot of the TSO songs) were played on the lighted piano. When the black keys were needed (which didn’t light up), they were moved down to the nearest white key. In addition, we could use the white keys for special lighting effects like those used at the end of Wizards of Winter. This year, the Frozen characters were also added. Olaf and Elsa who were over 20 feet tall, were instant hits with the kids. LED rope lighting outlined each character.
Olaf went away and the chipmunks were brought back. In addition the 9 dancing trees by the fence were added. I can’t find the picture for this one :(
This year brought the 16 singing and dancing penguins - 8 are visible at a time so we could make it look like they are dancing back and forth. Elsa was brought back one last time.
Below is the history of the lightshow from the start to how it got to where it is today. It really started in 2005 when Dan Robotka (me) saw a video on the Internet of one of the synchronized Christmas lightshows. I was amazed at the display and also that the hardware/software was becoming more affordable. In 2006, I bought minimal hardware and sotware and began the learning process. My basement was filled with strings of lights and small trees so I could blink them to music!
The final year for Joe and Dan brought two more 27ft trees to the display. The Grinch song was added this year along with the song, Christmas Everyday by Simple Plan. The weather never cooperated this year and snow was scarce. The display looks so much better with a snowy hill to reflect the light.