Clint Gabbert, 17, stands in front of a 34-foot tall Christmas tree made of lights Thursday at his house north of Craig. Using a computer program, Clint set his display to flash in time with various songs, including "Carol of the Bells" and a techno rendition of "Jingle Bells."

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Clint Gabbert, 17, stands in front of a 34-foot tall Christmas tree made of lights Thursday at his house north of Craig. Using a computer program, Clint set his display to flash in time with various songs, including "Carol of the Bells" and a techno rendition of "Jingle Bells."

Craig residents go all out on seasonal decorating

The Craig home of Mike and Deb Nesta isn't hard to spot this time of year.

Penguins, polar bears, snowmen and Santa Claus are nestled among spiral-shaped Christmas trees. Two rows of large, illuminated red-and-white-striped candy canes line the stairs to their porch.

And, even in full daylight, string upon string of lights can be seen trimming their house and garage.

"What we enjoy is seeing the little kids when their parents drive by," Deb said. "They're so excited."

Mike and Deb, who have lived in Craig for about a year, began decorating before Thanksgiving. But in their case, preparing to deck the halls is a year-round task.

After Christmas is over, the Nestas begin looking for bargains. Last year, they were able to buy 1,300 lights for about $10, or a fraction of their original price, Mike said.

Christmas decorating has been a family tradition for the Nestas during the eight years they've been married, but it's been an annual ritual for Mike since he was a child.

"Everybody decorated in the '50s and '60s," he said.

Decorating for Christmas brings back fond memories of his childhood - something he's tried to give his own children.

The perplexed look on their faces showed that, initially, they didn't understand their father's enthusiasm.

His response: "Just wait until it gets dark, then we'll turn the lights on," he said.

Lights, music, magic

Clint Gabbert, 17, however, knows exactly the kind of excitement Mike spoke of.

A 30-foot Christmas tree strung with about 17,000 lights twinkled under a darkening sky outside of Gabbert's house north of Craig.

Actually, it's a 34-foot tree if you include the star on the top.

And it's not really a tree.

With the help of a borrowed boom truck and some extra hands, he set a pipe upright and strung Christmas lights from its tip to the ground in a teepee shape.

The towering display wasn't the only thing in Gabbert's yard that flashed, sparkled and glowed.

He strung about 300 large bulbs along the roof of his parents' house and festooned two pine trees with Christmas lights.

Unfortunately, only one person so far, other than Gabbert's family members, has been able to see the display.

But then, he's only had it running for three days.

And the one person who did see it promised to return.

"They thought it was pretty cool," Gabbert said. "They said they'd be back, because I didn't have everything up at the time."

This year, he added another element to his annual hobby. Using a computer program and controllers, or special light plug-ins, the teenager synchronized the lights to flash to multiple songs.

His selections include "Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills, "Carol of the Bells" and theme music from the film, "Miracle on 34th Street."

Getting music and lights to jive was a time-consuming process. Every 30 seconds of song took Gabbert between four and six hours to synchronize.

The brain controlling the carefully choreographed display of music and light?

Gabbert's laptop computer.

A few small wires trailed from the machine - a stark contrast to the maze of extension cords that snaked across the lawn outside. One of the wires hooked up to the computer was attached to an FM radio inverter. Gabbert set up a radio station to broadcast the songs in his repertoire so that people can watch and listen from the comfort of their cars.

Christmas lights have fascinated Gabbert since he was a child.

"I've just always loved them," he said.

But there's another reason why he spent four months working on this display.

Gabbert's gunning for first prize in a Christmas light contest sponsored by lightorama.com, an online store for computerized light control products. If Gabbert wins, he gets $1,500 of the Web site's merchandise.

He's already planning on how to spend the winnings.

"What I'd probably do is get more controllers or get the wireless setup for everything," he said.

Comments

jgrubbs 5 years, 4 months ago

Here are better directions: Travel north on Highway 13 to mile marker 105. Shortly after is a left turn for County Road 103. The lit-up house - and 30-foot Christmas tree with a star on top - is visible from the highway. Be sure to tune your radio to 107.7 FM to hear the music Clint broadcasts in sync with his light display. Happy holidays, Jenni Grubbs

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