Clark Griswold has nothing on Andrew Proctor.
The most famous (yet fictional) Christmas electrician may have put 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights on his house for the holidays, but Proctor nearly tripled that.
And, Griswold’s lights didn’t twinkle. Not only do Proctor’s twinkle—they dance to music.
All you need to do is drive up to his house, tune your car radio to 88.7 FM and watch the show.
It all started in 2007. Proctor and his family were watching “Deck the Halls,” about a man who wants to adorn his house with so many Christmas lights that it’s visible from space.
Proctor isn’t quite there yet. But, what he’s done is a start.
“When we saw that movie, the kids said, ‘Can we do that?’” Proctor said. ‘Yeah sure why not,’ I told them.”
How he does it
Proctor started off with 32 channels—basically on and off switches hooked up to the lights to make them flicker in rhythm to music. Four years later, he’s up to 300 channels that control the lights—all from his computer.
He starts the programming in August, picking out the repertoire of songs and deciding which lights that year will blink, shimmer and fade to the music he’s chosen.
“On the software, you go in and program, and put the indications of what you want the lights to do,” Proctor said. “That program sends a signal out to our controllers. When we do our sequencing, we usually start at half a second, but we bring them down to a timing mark every tenth of a second. We break it down to a fifth to make it even smaller.”
Don’t get it? You don’t have to.
You just have to pull up to his house starting at 6 p.m. each night and watch the 10- to 15-minute show. Proctor has everything from LED Christmas trees, an elves-throwing-presents arch across the driveway and something he calls a matrix—adorned with stars that light up on top.
Behind the scenes, the hardware is hard at work, while Proctor and his family greet Christmas light watchers, hand out candy canes and even collect donations for the Almost Home Animal Shelter in Pennsauken.
“I do it to pass the spirit along to everyone else,” Proctor said.
Preparations starts early
Proctor starts decorating right after Halloween, pulling out all the decorations wherever they were stored that year.
“Next year, I might need a storage unit,” said Proctor.
Most of the decorations he makes by bending wires and adding the lights. Some of the items are even trash-picked and reworked for his extravagant display. He even bent wire to say Merry Christmas in lights on his garage door. And on the roof is an obligatory plastic Santa with reindeer.
“My son likes that,” he said.
Nine-year-old Andrew and 11-year-old Rebecca, the Proctors daughter, think their house is “cool” around Christmastime.
“I like everything and my brother and I try to help out a lot when he’s setting up the lights,” Rebecca said. “I really like the tree, the way it swirls around.”
Swirling trees, blinking elves, shimmering deer and even strings of lights on the lawn don’t distract the family in their home at night, Proctor said, contrary to popular belief; their bedroom is in the back of the house.
And, the neighbors aren’t anything like the Griswold's neighbors in “Christmas Vacation.” In fact, two of them asked Proctor to add their houses to next year’s light show. That, as well as getting more LED lights and maybe even a Santa’s workshop silhouette on the garage door, is Proctor’s project for Christmas 2012.
He might even get more ideas next summer as he hosts a special party where other lights enthusiasts like him travel from all over the country to his house to talk shop.
“We kind of have a group of us that do all this,” Proctor said. “As we become more and more experienced, we pass the knowledge onto other people.”
With all this electricial and programming knowledge, you’d figure Proctor would be in that industry.
“You’d really think so,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a tax accountant.”
However, Proctor said he’s always been a “tinkering kind of person.”
“I build a lot of stuff with my hands,” he said. “I’m pretty mechanically inclined. I’ve kind of grown into the whole thing.”
Grown into it is right. This year, Proctor’s entire front lawn and house are decorated with 60- to 70,000 lights that take dozens of hours to program. Some of the songs include “Wizards in Winter” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra”— “The house just basically goes crazy with lights dancing around,” Proctor said—and “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.
“I have people who come in out of town and say, ‘We have to make the stop over here, it’s part of our tour. We always end with your house, because nothing beats this house.’”
If you go: The Proctor family live at 132 Park Ave., across Rt. 73 past the Jug Handle Inn. Check for show hours. The speed limit is 25, so be mindful when slowing down, stopping and pulling out into traffic while watching the light show.