Lighting up the Season: Love of Christmas lights develops into holiday show

Mike and Freddy Carter have decorated their lawn in plenty of festive decorations and lights, all designed to be synced with Christmas music playing over 93.5 FM. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Mike and Freddy Carter have decorated their lawn in plenty of festive decorations and lights, all designed to be synced with Christmas music playing over 93.5 FM. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Mike Carter, 25, wanted to bring his love for Christmas lights to Austin, so just before Halloween he started putting up his over 14,000 LED lights in his yard.

“I love lights,” he said. “I’ve loved Christmas lights ever since I’ve been a kid, so now that I can do it on my own I enjoy it.”

Mike and Freddy Carter set up a large lights display at their home at 710 11th Ave NW in Austin, where viewers can tune into the radio station at 93.5 FM and watch a lights display show, which starts every 10 minutes. The light show, which has strands of lights running up the trees, along the house, on the window frames, up the pathway and more, runs from 5 to 9 p.m. every night through Dec. 31.

Mike and Freddy Carter stand outside their home where they’ve synced up the Christmas lights of their home to Christmas music playing on the radio.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Mike and Freddy Carter stand outside their home where they’ve synced up the Christmas lights of their home to Christmas music playing on the radio. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Mike and Freddy moved into their home in 2014, and that Christmas Mike didn’t hesitate to set up the lights display. Yet the first year was simply lights, and this year Mike wanted to do more.

“We did just lights last year, this is our first year with music, synchronized lights,” he said.

This holiday season, Mike spent time building a computer program to synchronize the lights with a song, which he said took him awhile. He avoided purchasing equipment to do it for him, which he said is fairly costly, instead opting to put his computer skills to the test.

“So I was able to build my own version for about a third of the cost,” he said. “So that’s been half the fun.”

The two also doubled the amount of lights from last year.

Mike started putting up the lights just before Halloween to avoid the cold of winter. He harnessed up, climbed the several trees in the yard and wrapped the strands of lights around the branches and trunks. He also did some of the windows. He didn’t do it alone, though, as Freddy was there to support Mike’s love for lights.

“I just hold the ladder,” Freddy laughed.

There are 14,000 LED lights in the display, and Mike made sure to stock up last year in preparation for this year’s holiday season.

People can turn into 93.5 FM to hear the music that goes with the light show. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

People can turn into 93.5 FM to hear the music that goes with the light show. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“One thing that’s funny, last year the day after Christmas, he went to every Walmart — he went to Albert Lea, Austin — and he bought all the lights that were leftover,” Freddy said.

They have already purchased just under 5,000 more lights for next year — about 36 boxes and five spools of lights — from Walmart, Target, Home Depot, online and more.

“You name it we got it there,” Mike laughed.

Mike hopes the community enjoys the display and adds it to the list of holiday fun during the season.

“We want to make sure that everyone in the community enjoys them,” he said. “We want to just hopefully add a new fun thing to everyone’s Christmas season.”

Freddy recalled a group of about three cars full of kids last weekend that stopped, and the kids got out and sang and danced along with the show. He explained this year was more of a test run to see how the display went, and the two seem to have pulled it off.

Christmas lights blaze at the home of Mike and Freddy Carter. The lights have been set up to sync with music they have playing through 93.5 FM.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Christmas lights blaze at the home of Mike and Freddy Carter. The lights have been set up to sync with music they have playing through 93.5 FM. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“We just wanted to do a test run and people really like it,” he said.

The Carters are also taking donations for the local Boy Scouts troops. As of Wednesday, they had raised about $70, and Freddy said the goal is $200.

Mike hopes to add more lights next year, but doesn’t plan to move the display away from home any time soon.

“We just do it just to enjoy it at home,” he said.

“We’re going to have a lot of lights though as years come,” Freddy added.

The two receive about half the money they spend on the lights back through the Austin Utilities rebate program, since the lights are LED. Though there are other costs they have to pay fully, such as extension cords, it’s nice to get some of the money back and provide the display for the community.

“So, yay rebate program,” Mike laughed. “It’s saved us a lot of money.”

 Check out a guide to holiday lights around Austin: https://www.facebook.com/AUMNHolidayDisplays/

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