History

This is some pretty old stuff from those good old days.  Some of the links might not work so keep your fingers crossed.

Quick facts about the very early PlanetChristmas display:

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1972: An early decorating project by Chuck

Information from the 2006 PlanetChristmas display.

How many lights were there for 2006? Thousands of miniature Christmas lights controlled by 397 individual circuits requiring miles of wire to connect everything, 105 strobe lights, Santa and Rudolph water skiing, Santa riding his Harley, Santa flying in a plane, elves building a snowman, Santa in a helicopter, animated reindeer, teddy bear on a trampoline, seals batting presents, over 120 individually controlled snowflakes… plus a whole lot more. The entire display is suspended from the steel beams or attached to overhead handrails.

How many computer zones were there this year? At the corner of Franklin Road and Liberty Pike are 54 bushes controlled by a computer. Look up at the water tower and the chasing reindeer are controlled by another computer. Step inside the main entrance of the Factory at Franklin and look straight up from the information desk. The PlanetChristmas sign is computer controlled. Go down each of the short hallways and it’s another computer controlled area. Break out into the large Commons Area and it’s a separate computer controlled area. Finally, walk down the long hallway with all the snowflakes and it’s the last computer controlled area.

How long did it take to put the lights up in 2006? Work started the week before Halloween. Lot’s of time was spent on a scissor and knuckle lifts. Luckily the Factory at Franklin has recently been remodeled and access to electricity was easy. The lights went on the day after Thanksgiving.

Do you really have a radio station, too? Yep! On the Internet. Click here for the details of how to listen. The Christmas CD’s I’ve bought over the years have been “ripped” and converted to MP3’s for playing at the display site. The OTSJuke jukebox program shuffles the >900 selections, inserting PlanetChristmas commercials and plays almost 60 hours of music before it repeats.

Are you running out off places to put lights? Not since the display has moved. The Factory is huge and has plenty of potential!

Do you take the lights down after Christmas? Christmas specific fixtures will go dark on December 26, but everything else will stay lit through January.

Are you Santa Claus? Let’s just say I’m very close to the big man when he’s around the house. We happen to wear the same size clothes. The odd thing we have never met face-to-face.

How does it work? Check the Technical Specifications and Schematic pages. I usually just say the computer does everything.

How much is the electric bill? I anticipate this year’s bill for the Factory to increase about $130. If you watch the display carefully, never are all of the lights on at the same time… it just looks that way because there are so many and they’re blinking. If they were all on, the display would draw 210 amps of current… equal to about eighteen hair dryers working at the same time.

Does the electric company give you a volume discount? I wish!

Why do you put up all those lights? Nothing in the world beats the twinkle in the eye of a five year old watching the all the lights. This is our gift to the community.

What does your wife do to help? Marla still offers advice after everything is up and going. “Chuck, that tree over there needs some more lights.”

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Quick facts about the 2005 display:See the link to the left. I took the year off and went to Disneyworld!

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Quick facts about the 2004 display:

Slightly more than 250,000 lights controlled by 640 computer circuits. Lights came on Thanksgiving evening at 5:00pm and went until Christmas night.

Any idea how many people drive by the PlanetChristmasdisplay in 2004?The traffic control volunteers counted each and every car, limo, trolley and bus that came to see the PlanetChristmas display for 2004.

How many lights were there for 2004? 251,184 miniature Christmas lights controlled by 640 individual circuits requiring 12.1 miles of wire to connect everything, 180 strobe lights, Santa and Rudolph water skiing, Santa, Rudolph and a snowman playing golf, Santa riding his Harley, Santa flying in a plane, elves building a snowman, Santa in a helicopter, a four horse carousel, gingerbread house, 16 animated reindeer, teddy bear on a trampoline, an elf firing presents out of a cannon and four frogs… plus a whole lot more. The entire display wraps around the pond.

How long did it take to put the lights up in 2004? On November 14, 2003, several volunteers arrived at my house to transport the display to it’s new location. The lights officially switched on Thanksgiving night at an informal ceremony. I had many volunteers to help rollout the display as well as hook everything to the computer. There were only a couple of days when it was too wet to work outside. Luckily, most of the other days had temperatures in the 40-60 degree range. The older I get, the harder it is to get excited about going outside in 25 degree weather to put up Christmas lights.

Do you really have a radio station, too? I use a micro-powered radio station broadcasting on 98.7 FM stereo broadcast on site. The music heard through the outdoor speakers is also going out over the radio station 24 hours a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are also sponsored by The Fish FM 94.1 and they have provided much of the music and voiceovers while also broadcasting Christmas music 24×7 from their real radio station in Nashville. The Christmas CD’s I’ve bought over the years have been “ripped” and converted to MP3’s for playing at the display site. The OTSJuke jukebox program shuffles the >900 selections, inserting PlanetChristmas commercials and plays almost 60 hours of music before it repeats. When you’re close to the house, turn up your heater, tune in the radio, find a good place to stop your car and enjoy the light show.

Are you running out off places to put lights? Not since the display has moved. The church sits on over 40 acres of land.

Do you take the lights down after Christmas? Definitely. The last flashing for the lights is Christmas night. I’m usually out the next day starting to disconnect stuff. It takes four full days to tear everything down and another three days to pack and store everything in the garage and attic.

Are you Santa Claus? Let’s just say I’m very close to the big man when he’s around the house. We happen to wear the same size clothes. The odd thing we have never met face-to-face.

How does it work? Check the Technical Specifications and Schematic pages. I usually just say the computer does everything.

How much is the electric bill? I anticipate this year’s bill for the church to increase about $130. If you watch the display carefully, never are all of the lights on at the same time… it just looks that way because there are so many and they’re blinking. If they were all on, the display would draw 210 amps of current… equal to about eighteen hair dryers working at the same time.

Does the electric company give you a volume discount? I wish!

Why do you put up all those lights? Nothing in the world beats the twinkle in the eye of a five year old watching the all the lights. This is our gift to the community.

What kind of computer do you use? For 20043 I’m sporting a 2.6GHz Pentium with 1GB of RAM. The program is written in ACL and runs with Animated Lighting hardware under Windows XP.

What does your wife do to help? Marla still offers advice after everything is up and going. “Chuck, that tree over there needs some more lights.”

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FAQ’s from 2003 and earlier

Any idea how many people drive by the PlanetChristmas display in 2003?The traffic control volunteers counted each and every car, limo, trolley and bus that came to see the PlanetChristmas display for 2003. As of December 22, 2003, the vehicle count crossed 10,000. A conservative guess is just over 50,000 people will see the display for 2003!

How many lights were there for 2003? 201,346 miniature Christmas lights controlled by 540 individual circuits requiring 10.1 miles of wire to connect everything, 180 strobe lights, Santa and Rudolph water skiing, Santa, Rudolph and a snowman playing golf, Santa riding his Harley, Santa flying in a plane, elves building a snowman, Santa in a helicopter, a four horse carousel, gingerbread house, 16 animated reindeer, teddy bear on a trampoline, an elf firing presents out of a cannon and four frogs… plus a whole lot more. The entire display is 200 feet long and broken into four scenes: Santa at the beach, Toyland, North Pole and the Nativity.

Why did you move the display to another location for 2003? The traffic generated by the display was becoming a major problem for the neighborhood. I approached The People’s Church, less than half a mile from my house to see if they might be interested in hosting the display. Not only were they interested in hosting it and making the display a yearly tradition, but they would provide volunteers to help set everything up as well as man critical traffic control points on the church property. Deciding to move the display ended up being very easy.

How long did it take to put the lights up in 2003? On November 14, 2003, several volunteers arrived at my house to transport the display to it’s new location. The lights officially switched on November 26, 2003 at a formal ceremony. I had many volunteers to help rollout the display as well as hook everything to the computer. There were only a couple of days when it was too wet to work outside. Luckily, most of the other days had temperatures in the 40-60 degree range. The older I get, the harder it is to get excited about going outside in 25 degree weather to put up Christmas lights.

Do you really have a radio station, too? I use a micro-powered radio station broadcasting on 98.7 FM stereo broadcast on site. The music heard through the outdoor speakers is also going out over the radio station 24 hours a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are also sponsored by The Fish FM 94.1 and they have provided much of the music and voiceovers while also broadcasting Christmas music 24×7 from their real radio station in Nashville. The Christmas CD’s I’ve bought over the years have been “ripped” and converted to MP3’s for playing at the display site. The OTSJuke jukebox program shuffles the >900 selections, inserting PlanetChristmas commercials and plays almost 60 hours of music before it repeats. When you’re close to the house, turn up your heater, tune in the radio, find a good place to stop your car and enjoy the light show.

Are you running out off places to put lights? Not since the display has moved. The church sits on over 40 acres of land.

Do you take the lights down after Christmas? Definitely. The last flashing for the lights is Christmas night. I’m usually out the next day starting to disconnect stuff. It takes four full days to tear everything down and another three days to pack and store everything in the garage and attic.

Are you Santa Claus? Let’s just say I’m very close to the big man when he’s around the house. We happen to wear the same size clothes. The odd thing we have never met face-to-face.

How does it work? I usually just say the computer does everything.

How much is your electric bill? I anticipate this year’s bill for the church to increase about $100. If you watch the display carefully, never are all of the lights on at the same time… it just looks that way because there are so many and they’re blinking. If they were all on, the display would draw 140 amps of current… equal to about twelve hair dryers working at the same time.

Does the electric company give you a volume discount? I wish!

Why do you put up all those lights? Nothing in the world beats the twinkle in the eye of a five year old watching the all the lights. This is our gift to the community.

What kind of computer do you use? For 2003 I’m sporting a 450MHz Pentium with 256MB of RAM. The program is written in PowerBASIC and runs on Windows 2000 in a DOS box… which really means I only use about 1MB of the RAM available. The vast majority of the time, the computer is simply in a do-nothing loop. In reality, an 8086 based computer (like the original IBM PC) is all the horsepower needed to drive the display. Many years ago the light show was run from an Apple IIe… until I burned out the power supply and couldn’t get another one easily.

What does your wife do to help? Marla offers advice after everything is up and going. “Chuck, that tree over there needs some more lights.”

What do your neighbors think of the lack of traffic at your house this year? As the final trailer of the light display was pulling away from my house November 14, the neighbor directly across the street came over and confirmed the display was really moving. When I said yes, he was positively giddy with excitement. Other neighbors have already said the miss the display.

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FAQ’s from 2002 and earlier

How many lights were there for 2002? 134,055 miniature Christmas lights controlled by 548 individual circuits requiring 7.8 miles of wire to connect everything, 138 strobe lights, one 8′ teddy bear, Santa and Rudolph water skiing, Santa, Rudolph and a snowman playing golf, Santa riding his Harley, Santa flying in a plane, elves building a snowman, Santa in a helicopter, a four horse carousel, gingerbread house, eight reindeer, two waving snowmen and four frogs.

How long did it take to put the lights up in 2002? I got everything put outside and hooked into the computer in less than nine days… it used to take considerably longer (see the following questions.) Everything is even more modular than years past so it can go together and come apart quickly. The older I get, the harder it is to get excited about going outside in 25 degree weather to put up Christmas lights.

Do you really have a radio station, too? I use a micro-powered radio station broadcasting on 98.7 FM stereo. The music heard through the outdoor speakers is also going out over the radio station 24 hours a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Christmas CD’s I’ve bought over the years have been “ripped” and converted to MP3’s. The OTSJuke jukebox program shuffles the >900 selections, inserting PlanetChristmas commercials and plays almost 60 hours of music before it repeats. When you’re close to the house, turn up your heater, tune in the radio, find a good place to stop your car and enjoy the light show.

Are you running out off places to put lights? I’ll admit I maxed out my current location in 1999. Luckily the trees and bushes around my house grew so I had more surface area for the lights. In 2002, if you look carefully, there are very lights on the house or bushes. Almost everything is stand-alone and doesn’t need a house to hang it on.

Do you take the lights down after Christmas? Definitely. The last flashing for the lights is Christmas night. I’m usually out the next day starting to disconnect stuff. It takes two full days to tear everything down and another three days to pack and store everything in the garage and attic.

Are you Santa Claus? Let’s just say I’m very close to the big man when he’s around the house. We happen to wear the same size clothes.

How does it work? I usually just say the computer does everything.

How much is your electric bill? I anticipate this year’s bill to be about $56. If you watch the display carefully, never are all of the lights on at the same time… it just looks that way because there are so many and they’re blinking. If they were all on, the display would draw 110 amps of current… equal to about ten hair dryers working at the same time.

Does the electric company give you a volume discount? I wish!

Why do you put up all those lights? I actually enjoy a project that I’m totally in-charge of. If something goes right or wrong, I’m the only one that can be praised or blamed. In reality, nothing in the world beats the twinkle in the eye of a five year old watching the all the lights.

What kind of computer do you use? For 2002 I’m sporting a 450MHz Pentium with 256MB of RAM. The program is written in PowerBASIC and runs on Windows 2000 in a DOS box… which really means I only use about 1MB of the RAM available. The vast majority of the time, the computer is simply in a do-nothing loop. In reality, an 8086 based computer (like the original IBM PC) is all the horsepower needed to drive the display. Many years ago the light show was run from an Apple IIe… until I burned out the power supply and couldn’t get another one easily.

What does your wife do to help? Marla offers advice after everything is up and going. “Chuck, that thing over there needs some more lights.”

What do your neighbors think of all the traffic? They get pretty quiet a week before Christmas when spectators and traffic start getting real thick around the house. .. but they do love the lights. I actually scaled back the lights in 2000 to prevent so much traffic from being generated in the area… it didn’t work and the lights started to grow again in 2001.

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How many lights were there for 2001? 96,790 miniature Christmas lights, 7.2 miles of wire to connect everything, 110 strobe lights, three 8′ inflatable snowmen, one 8′ inflatable Santa Claus, Santa in a helicopter, a four horse carousel, gingerbread house, 33 reindeer, two crying snowmen, all handled by 425 computer controlled circuits.

How many lights were there for 2000? 53,205 miniature Christmas lights, 2.1 miles of wire to connect everything, 192 computer controlled circuits and two X-10 circuits.

How many lights were there in 1999? 143,268 miniature Christmas lights, over 350 strobe lights, 6.4 miles of wire to connect everything, 540 computer controlled circuits and two X-10 circuits. Those were the good old days.

How long did it take to put the lights up in 2001? I got everything put outside and hooked into the computer in less than four days… it used to take considerably longer (see the following questions.) Everything is even more modular than years past so it can go together and come apart quickly. The older I get, the harder it is to get excited about going outside in 25 degree weather to put up Christmas lights.

How long did it take to put the lights up before 2000? Putting the lights up outside of the house is actually the easy part. That year I started on Halloween… and I also took a three weeks of vacation in November so that everything could be turned on Thanksgiving day. Most of the real work starts much earlier in the year… building wiring harnesses between the computer and the lights, refurbishing light strings from the previous year, building new light figures, etc. I actually started doing some preliminary work in February. Serious work began in the middle of June. Everything is very modular so it can go together and come apart quickly.

How did you get started doing this? In college, I stumbled onto an old coffee vending machine (put in a quarter, a cup drops down, then a squirt of water, shot of coffee grounds, a little sugar and a touch of cream.) It used a mechanical timer to trigger everything to make a cup of coffee. I removed the coffee making brain and relays, “reprogrammed” the mechanical cams and connected it to five different strings of Christmas lights in front of my parent’s house to make the bushes look like they were chasing each other in slow motion (this was 1973.) People talked about it from all over. In 1984, I used an 8 circuit dedicated computer board and connected it to solid state relays to control 4 vertical and 4 horizontal strands on a big Christmas tree in my front yard… people would stop their cars in front of the house watching the lights dance on the tree… and I knew I was onto something. The next year I used a retired Apple II and had 16 circuits to control. In 1990, the Apple blew out it’s power supply and I shifted to a PC clone… and it’s been growing each year. Now it’s become a family tradition for a lot of people in the middle Tennessee area. I couldn’t be more proud!

Are you going to do this again next year? 2002 is the last year for the huge display. Watch this space for future plans!