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Big light displays go high-tech

Gone are the days of wowing the community with a home holiday light display that takes an afternoon to set up.

“I actually started back in August,” said Pete Kimbell, whose lights in Indian Trail’s Brandon Oaks subdivision have attracted thousands of visitors over the past three holiday seasons.

“With today’s technology, it takes time to get it right,” he added.

Having thousands of lights hanging on the roof, sides of the house and trees won’t do it any more. Most of today’s popular home displays are synchronized to music and include low-power FM radio stations, allowing visitors to hear the music while watching the lights.

And many residents have websites or Facebook pages.

“We start early because of the testing and sequencing that’s required,” said Kimbell, who, with his wife Sherri, greets visitors every night outside their home at 4026 Garden Oak Drive. “We don’t just install the software. We test it.”

Kimbell said he goes to the trouble because he enjoys making the holidays happier for others. But he has another reason. His mother was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer more than two years ago. At the time, the life expectancy for such a patient was less than a year. His mother is now a 28-month cancer survivor.

So the Kimbells ask for donations, which they give to the National Foundation for Cancer Research. Pete Kimbell said he is aiming for $2,500 this year.

Many of the other big home light displays also accept donations. For example, David and Lisa Brown, who host Lake Park Lights in western Union County, turn donations over to the Union County Christmas Bureau. And the Huntersville Christmas Lights, on Melrose Meadow Lane in Huntersville, support A Child’s Place.

In most cases, the home light displays will keep shining until New Year’s night. Property owners ask visitors to be mindful of neighbors’ property and turn their vehicle lights off.

“Everyone is really good about this,” Kimbell said. “We’ve never had a problem with anyone. People tend to come, watch the show, and then leave so others can enjoy.”

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