A dazzling light show debuted Nov. 27 last year in Clovis’ Ladera Ranch subdivision, drawing about 5,000 spectators on its first night to the 3100 block of Indianapolis Avenue near Gettysburg and Locan avenues.
This year, Santa Claus Lane, the computer-animated show set to music, is open to the public from 6 to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31.
The masterminds behind the 160,000-light show on 16 houses on the block are Deb and Terry Toews. The couple founded the nonprofit foundation Clovis Festival of Lights at Ladera Ranch last year after neighbors agreed to join in with the festivities, although the Toewses had set their home’s Christmas lights to music since 2007.
Their house alone shines with 110,000 twinkling bulbs — the couple added 60,000 lights this year in the form of a singing and guitar playing snowman, a quartet of singing trees and 82 mini trees that line the street. The addition brought the total of mini trees in the neighborhood to 108.
That’s about $10,000 in lights and $6,000 in equipment added just for this year, Terry Toews said.
Inside the Santa Claus Workshop in the family’s front yard are 56 Light-O-Rama controllers that control hundreds of strands of lights in four colors: white, red, green and blue.
Decorations are in multiples of four because the controllers have 16 channels each and most music is written in a 4/4 time signature, meaning it has four quarter-note beats. The program’s song list includes classics like “Frosty the Snowman” and modern songs like “Winter Wonderland/Here Comes Santa Claus” by Snoop Dogg and Anna Kendrick.
A special show on Dec. 17, a night for foot traffic only, will feature seven songs from Disney’s “Frozen.”
Spectators tune into 98.5 FM in their vehicles to watch and listen to the show.
It takes three to four hours to program one minute of music. “It was easily 1,000 hours of programming between me and another programmer that helped us this year,” said Deb Toews.
“The programming is like a humongous spreadsheet,” she said. “For every light string that I have, I have the ability to turn it on, off, fade it up, fade it down, make it twinkle, or make it shimmer, and I can have varying degrees that I can program as well.”
While it takes several weeks to set up all of the lighted elements — the Toewses started on Oct. 29 and estimate it took 200 man-hours to complete — everything is taken down within a couple of days.
Dancing to each song are 8,960 individual lights on a 25-foot metal tree structure that provides a tall vertical element to the show. The gigantic pine uses 64 channels of lights — 16 channels each of white, red, green and blue — with each channel holding two strings of 70 lights.
A nearby 19-foot Cosmic Color Ribbon tree includes 12 individual ribbons containing 150 RGB LED pixels that can be individually controlled, allowing the Toewses to display pictures and words.
Adorning the lawns of several houses are miniature trees made of four 100-light strings wrapped around tomato cages, totaling 4,480 lights. The couple used 312 tomato cages to make the trees.
The same amount of lights decorate four lighted pillars topped with stars. Each cylinder is wrapped with 16 strings of 70 white lights, accounting for 1,120 lights each.
Seven miles worth of extension cords are used in the display. Wireless pillars throughout the neighborhood cut down on the use of additional cords.
Word has certainly spread through social media and YouTube videos. The Santa Claus Lane Facebook page has about 12,000 followers, nearly double the number from the end of last year.
About 7,000 people showed up on opening night this year, which was Black Friday. That night, the Toewses gave away 2,000 candy canes and sold 466 cups of hot cocoa, 65 hot dogs, 21 pizzas, 200 packets of cookies and 110 Christmas light necklaces.
The show is free, but the nonprofit collects donations for a Clovis food pantry at Faith Community Church of the Nazarene, which feeds about 300 people each month, and for the new Marjaree Mason emergency transitional living center in Clovis, which offers shelter to women fleeing domestic violence.
“We like to keep the money in Clovis,” Deb said.
Surprisingly, the couple’s electric bill only went up $20 during the month of December last year.
“We use all LED bulbs and their only on for four hours each night,” Deb explained. “So that’s not costing us a whole lot.”
Santa Claus Lane presented by Clovis Festival of Lights at Ladera Ranch
When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. Dec. 10 and 17 are walking nights, during which vehicle traffic is prohibited. Dec. 10 will feature songs that pay tribute to law enforcement and military members and Dec. 17 will feature songs from Disney’s “Frozen.”
Where: 3116 Indianapolis Ave. in Clovis. Cross streets are Gettysburg and Locan avenues.
How much: Free. Donations are accepted for the Faith Community Church of the Nazarene food pantry and Marjaree Mason Center. Food and hot cocoa are available for purchase on walking nights.