An interview with Mark Tarkowski of Wauconda.
Q: How long have you been decorating your house like this?
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A: This is the second year I have synchronized my Christmas lights to music. Last year I only had 16 separate channels controlling my lights. This year I added a few more thousand lights and 32 more channels to control my roof. With now over 9,000 lights, over a mile of extension cords, and 48 channels, I am able to create a spectacular display.
Q: What inspired you to go all out with your decorations?
A: I saw a synchronized light display many years ago online when the technology just came out and I thought it was the coolest thing. It motivated me to create my own display. I enjoy playing around with technology and electronics, so creating a light show set to music is exciting for me, and every year I add more to lights and music to the show. I hope to create traditions for families and bring smiles to everyone's faces.
Q: How many hours does it take to put up the display?
A: The physical light setup outside takes three weekends. My dad comes to help me for many hours, which helps out a lot. I could not have put this on without him. The longer part is coding the songs. One song may take 40 hours to make the lights go along with the music. The design and creation of structures also takes a lot of time. During the summer months I work on my display. The mega tree in the front yard is 20 feet tall with 1,800 LEDs. During the summer, I created a trebuchet for my mega tree and made the infrastructure on the roof to support the lights on the roof.
Q: How many strings of lights are involved?
A: I have over 9,000 lights in my display with most of them being 50 lights per string. In total I have roughly 130 strings of lights.
Q: How much does your electric bill spike in December?
A: It goes up slightly because I am running 93 percent LEDs throughout my display. Last year our electric bill went up about $2 per week; however, with more lights this year, I am anxious to see what it will be but not anticipating a large bill.
Q: What do your neighbors think of your display?
A: From what I could see they like it and support me. When the show is running outside there is no music so people need to tune their car radio station to 88.7-FM. Now what they think of me when I start to put Christmas lights up the day after Halloween and when I do some tests and dry runs during the summer may be another question.