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A collection of photography and exploration focusing on Upstate South Carolina and beyond.
Laura and I love Christmas lights. Each year we go on several expeditions around our area to seek out those over-the-top displays. This year, though, with the help of social media and one particular website, we were able to streamline our search, making our light treks more efficient.
First Outing – from Fountain Inn Northward
I’ve already documented our trek to Pacolet and the lights we found there and along the way. Over the weekend we headed down to Fountain Inn to see their lights. One neighborhood always puts out luminarias and has a series of elegant displays. Unfortunately, we were prevented from entering the neighborhood by a local policewoman. She said that only residents were being allowed in. If we wanted to see the lights, we would have to buy tickets to ride through on a horse-drawn carriage. We decided to skip.
Fortunately, there were lots of nice lights along Main Street north of town. We enjoyed these as we drove from Fountain Inn on up toward Simpsonville. Here we found a couple of good displays. Down in the Powderhorn neighborhood there was one house decorated from top to bottom. Just north of Powderhorn is the neighborhood of Poinsettia. With a name like that, you know that they have to do something for Christmas. There were quite a few elegant displays, and a few excessive light displays.
From Simpsonville we continued north, then turned onto Highway 14. Just across from the Heritage Lakes subdivision there was a small neighborhood that also had some great lights. All in all it was a good outing. We had seen some good lights, but we wanted more. That required a bit of planning.
Second Outing – Upstate Lights Spectacular
I found just what I needed when I got home from our first trek. A friend on Facebook posted a link to the Upstate Christmas Lights website. The site has a map with locations of several synchronized light displays. I downloaded the data from the map and copied it into my GPS. Now we had some clear directions, and the next evening we set out again.
Turns out that when we turned from Highway 14 onto Woodruff Road the previous night, we just missed one of the best displays in Greenville. The “Herbaclaus” lights are in the Spaulding Farms subdivision just off of Highway 14.
When we arrived there was a sign telling us to tune our radios to a specific frequency. They had a low powered FM transmitter that was broadcasting music, and the lights were synchronized to whatever was playing. Here’s a brief clip from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
From the Herbaclaus Lights we crossed Roper Mountain Road into the Ashton Springs neighborhood. There were lots of nice lights through here, and these made a nice aperitif to the larger display.
The next waypoint in my GPS was for the Lindsey Family Lights in Greer. These are just off of Highway 101 south of Greer. Several small homes have gone together to create a MASSIVE display. These are of the more old fashioned, static variety. There were no flashing lights, and there was lots of plastic.
The next stop on our grand tour was another set of synchronized lights – the Lyman Lake Lights. Even though the creators of this display were the ones that created the Christmas Lights website, the display itself was something of a letdown. There weren’t anywhere near the number of lights as the previous two locations. What lights were there were synchronized to a low power FM transmitter, similar to Herbaclaus. The music was primarily novelty Country and Western. Most notable was a singing Santa hung over the garage door, whose lips moved in time with the music as if he were singing.
Here’s a bit of video:
Continuing on our trek, the next stop was on Highway 101 north of Greer. The Turner Family Lights are set back from the road, and one reaches them by driving down the Turners’ long driveway. These were also synchronized to an FM station. We paused a bit away from the house to take in the whole view.
Here’s video of the Turner display:
Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra seem to be the music of choice for these displays.
We drove on up for a closer look. We circled around their garage where we found a nice collection of snow people. Next to the house we found a dinosaur – the first we had seen anywhere apart from our own house.
We still had several points on our GPS, but were running out of steam. Our last stop, somewhat along our way back home, was the Greenville Griswald display just off of Lee Road and Wade Hampton Boulevard. The lights website described this one as “a Christmas Light Show synchrnonized to upbeat christmas songs using over 250,000 lights on 560 independent computer controlled channels.” And it was impressive. The house itself was fairly modest on a small yard, but every inch of that yard was covered, as well as every inch of the house itself.
Of course, I’ve got video:
There were three other locations on the map that we just couldn’t make. However, we know quite well that the map is incomplete. There is supposed to be an incredible synchronized display down in Moore and also in Mauldin. Off of Ikes Road behind Northwoods Middle School there is a yard with just about any kind of blow-up display imaginable (and lights, of course.) I don’t know if the famous Light People are still doing their thing down in Pelzer. I’m sure there are others.
Moving beyond the Upstate, someone from Columbia has put together a similar website for their area. (Warning – music starts as soon as you click the link.) It appears that these synchronized lights have moved beyond places such as Hollywild and Roper Mountain, and into private yards.
So, what does it take do put on one of these displays? Several companies sell computer controlled systems. Light-O-Rama seems to be one of the largest. They sell packages that have the controllers and FM transmitters, and it looks like it would set you back a couple of grand just for this equipment. Then you have to buy all of the lights and get them set up. Down in Augusta, Georgia, David Weeks has created a similar display. He says that they begin setting up lights in mid-September. According to the news article, “Once the lights are up, Fields said, a friend will help synchronize them to three Christmas songs. He estimates that it takes more than 80 hours of labor to synchronize each song.”
In our drive I made a couple of mental notes. First, grand lighting displays aren’t tied to money as much as they are tied to children. Neighborhoods with children seem to have more lights. While lights do cost quite a bit, larger homes seemed to go for the more subdued, elegant displays rather than lots of lights.
I’ve also noticed that lights tend to beget lights. One house will put up a grand display, and another follows suit. In our neighborhood we used to be the only ones that put up outside lights, and now others on our street have joined us. It’s more of a spirit of fun than competition, although I’m sure that happens in some neighborhoods. The exception seems to be with the over-the-top synchronized lights. If you have one in an area, it seems that there aren’t many other bright lights on the same street, as if one given street can only hold so much brightness.
I’ve noticed one final thing about synchronized displays versus static displays. People hang around to watch the light show. With the moving displays it seems that you never see all of the lights on at once, so you have to stay long enough to see everything, and that slows things down. Traffic was really backing up on the tiny street at the Greenville Griswalds location, and I’ve seen other reports of police needing to manage traffic. I’d hate to be one of their neighbors.
The Light-O-Rama website was trying to put a positive spin on this. They had a customer testimonial that went something like this:
I’ve always been into Christmas lights. People would drive up, look for about a minute and drive away. Then I used LOR to animate my lights to music. Now I have to hire off-duty policemen to direct the traffic. People love it. Margo Chester in Chicago
That’s not really a problem I want to have.
Regardless, I’m happy that there ARE people for whom this is not a problem, and that they are willing to share their obsession (which is what it really is) with Christmas lights. It makes the whole season a bit happier.
…and you have any other lights which I might not know about, please, please feel free to let me know in the comments!