Located on the southside of Richmond, Va in North Chesterfield at 7406 Summerleaf Court.
The Summerleaf Christmas Show is a Christmas Light display containing over 40,000 lights controlled by over 2000 channels. Each channel controls a group of lights or in some cases part of one light! The newest addition to the display, a 10 foot tree has 600 LED pixels on it, each of which is controlled by 3 channels for a total of 1800 channels. The effects this tree is capable of producing is simply amazing.
In 2009, we began converting the display to LED lights because the current draw of the 40,000 incandescant lights was getting close to the limit of our electrical service! This year (2012) we will have more than 50% of all the lights converted to LEDs. This conversion has not only allowed us to add blue lights to the display, but the colors produced by the LED’s look incredible. The current draw for the display prior to the change to LED’s was over 100 amps, this year it looks to be about 70 amps, even with the addition of many more lights!
The highlight of the show in previous years has been the giant mega tree on the left side of the yard. As of 2011, this tree stood 20 feet in the air and has nearly 5000 lights on it. New in 2012 is a 3D star that is sure to please the many visitors we expect to see this year.
Up until 2011, we saw a fair amount of traffic which got substantially heavier the week before the big day. In 2011, we were featured on the local television stations “Holiday Homes” segment. Following that interview, the traffic was much more intense. If you’re planning on coming out to see the display this year, the earlier you get out here, the better! Stay safe in the cul-de-sac, it’s hard for people in cars to see people walking in the street!
We always get asked all sorts of questions concerning details of the display, so I wanted to write about a few of them here. People always ask how much it costs to run all the lights. It’s not nearly as bad as you’d think because the lights don’t stay on all the time. If they did, the lights and wires would get hot and the dial on the panel would spin. When you see a display that’s static (the lights don’t flash), you can bet they’re adding quite a bit to there electric bill, our bill may go up by about 50% in December.
How long does it take to setup? The actual seting up of the lights takes about a full week, usually the week before Thanksgiving. Preparations begin however in the middle of the summer. Any new additions have to be planned on so they can be part of a balanced electrical load. How many extension cords? I’m afraid to know the answer! There are at least 300 with an average of 25 feet, so that means there’s at least 7500 feet – more than a mile. Where do you keep it all? Storage is just as important as making sure everything is wired safely. Here’s a picture taken of most of the crates from last year’s tear down.
How do you get the music out to my car? We have a small FM transmitter with a very low output that connects directly to the show computer. The software we use to program the lights (Light-o-rama) runs on a computer and the FM transmitter plugs right into the sound card of the computer. Lightorama handles the details of the show with a little help from MIIP, which watches over everything as well. If your car has an RDS radio (Radio Data System), you are able to see the titles of the songs as they play as well. Who makes your announcements? Announcements are craftfully prepared and executed by The Demented Elf, otherwise known as Kevin Dunn. I have done them before, but I really like the way he talks the talk. How long does it take to program the songs? It can easily take 8 hours or more to program one minute of light sequencing.
How do you keep it all together? Zip ties. Lots and lots of zip ties. Anywhere from one to two thousand each year.