Michael Farney has been looking forward to Christmas this year for a long time. Since January, in fact.

That’s when he started thinking about a holiday light display that would draw onlookers from far and wide. Thousands of lights, flashing and twinkling in complex choreographed patterns. It would take a while, Farney knew, but it would most certainly be the coolest celebration of holiday cheer on the block.

“The actual outside setup took about 60 hours,” Farney said. “I took a week off work to get it all done. There’s no way you could get it done on the weekends.”

Farney, 23, lives at 1045 Dunlop Ave. in a small, single-story home that is absolutely plastered with lights. The bushes, the windows, the yard and even the roof have more than 26,200 bulbs powered by some 20,000 watts of Christmas joy. From 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day, passing motorists can tune their radios to 87.9 FM and hear a collection of 30 songs to which the powerful display is set. Farney uses a low powered radio transmitter to pump out the tunes.

“I’m more of a technology nut than a Christmas nut, I would say,” Farney said. “But it’s certainly a lot of fun around the holidays.”

In May, Farney graduated from Bradley University in Peoria with a degree in computer information systems. His programming skills, coupled with a software package from Light-O-Rama, provided him the wherewithal to bring his holiday fantasy to life. He drew inspiration from similar displays across the country that became wildly popular a few years ago thanks to the Internet and a television ad for Miller Lite that fleetingly brought fame to a family in Mason, Ohio. A video clip of that display posted on You Tube in November of 2005 has been viewed almost 2.5 million times.

“I saw the original house in Ohio and I was so fascinated with the idea and wanted to figure out how it was done,” Farney said.

His first display went up last year around his dormitory window at Bradley and included some 2,400 lights, Farney said. After graduating and moving to Forest Park in June, Farney said it was a priority for him to find a place where he could expand his vision. He had already started writing the computer program in January for what would eventually become the display that dominates his neighborhood.

“I think it’s cool,” neighbor Kelley Pacyga, 1051 Dunlop Ave., said.

Pacyga lamented that her own home is lacking in holiday decorations this year, but said watching her neighbor spend hours setting up his lights is inspiring her to buckle down. In October, he even helped Pacyga get her Halloween decorations in order and lent her a string of orange lights.

Across the street at 1040 Dunlop Ave., Gerardo Devala said the lights are hard to miss, but they add a much needed boost of holiday cheer to an otherwise sparsely decorated block.

“They’re nice, I like them,” Devala said.

Clark Griswold, eat your heart out

It takes two computers and three sound cards to run Michael Farney’s elaborate decorations. The total package includes:

  • 12 master control boxes
  • 184 relays
  • 26,239 bulbs
  • 20,188 watts
  • About 330 strands of lights
  • 14 dedicated 20 amp outlets
  • A peak amperage draw of 170 amps
  • 167 independent circuits
  • 178 extension cords totaling roughly four-tenths of a mile