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Did you know?
  • The original Rudolph did not have a red nose. In that day and age, red noses were seen as an indicator of chronic alcoholism and Montgomery Ward didn’t want him to look like a drunkard. To complete the original picture, he was almost named Reginald or Rollo.
  • The Christmas wreath was originally hung as a symbol of Jesus. The holly represents his crown of thorns and the red berries the blood he shed.
  • The three traditional colors of most Christmas decorations are red, green and gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Christ, green symbolized life and rebirth, and gold represents light, royalty and wealth.
  • Tinsel was invented in 1610 in Germany and was once made of real silver.
  • The oldest artificial Christmas trees date back to the late 1800s and were made of green raffia (think grass hula skirts) or dyed goose feathers. Next the Addis Brush Company used their machinery that wove toilet brushes to create pine-like branches for artificial Christmas trees that were less flammable and could hold heavier decorations.
  • ‘Jingle Bells’ – the popular Christmas song was composed by James Pierpont in Massachusetts, America. It was, however, written for thanksgiving and not Christmas.
  • Coca-Cola was the first company that used Santa Claus during the winter season for promotion.
  • Hallmark introduced their first Christmas cards in 1915.
  • The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on that day.
  • Santa Claus's sleigh is led by eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder (variously spelled Donder and Donner), and Blixem (variously spelled Blixen and Blitzen), with Rudolph being a 20th-century inclusion.
  • Outdoor Christmas lights on homes evolved from decorating the traditional Christmas tree and house with candles during the Christmas season. Lighting the tree with small candles dates back to the 17th century and originated in Germany before spreading to Eastern Europe.
  • That big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard didn’t always look that way. Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop's robe and a Norse huntsman's animal skin. When Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elflike figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.
  • Christmas 2018 countdown has already begun. Will you be ready???
  • Why do we love Christmas? It's all about the traditions. In this chaotic world we can miss the "good old days." Christmas reminds us of that time.

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  1. Just received a list from Santa RJ, our Academy partner at DIY Light Animation, and we must have been on the "Nice List" this year! Take a look at what the DLA crew has already assembled for Academy 2012 classes: Soldering Basics for EVERYONE “Until a year ago I didn’t even own a soldering iron.” This was made in a recent post by one of our long-time attendees and is a great example of the different levels of knowledge in our shared hobby. We have some of the most creatively technical minds in the holiday industry attend the Academy each year but we also have people in need of a “square one” approach. RJ from DIY Light Animation is coordinating this “workshop-style session to help everyone feel comfortable and open to asking questions. Soldering Advanced Topics When you get beyond the basics and need to further your knowledge base it becomes time to attend a more advanced level class. This session will pick up where “Soldering Basics for EVERYONE” left off and continue the workshop-style teaching approach. Several of the more experienced staff members from DIY Light Animation will be on hand to help show you some advanced techniques and guide you through them. Automated Sequencing: the Easy Button for Animated Displays? Hours upon countless hours have been spent by everyone who animates their displays. Each timing mark must be perfect. Every fade and effect has to hit at just the right moment. Some people estimate that it takes them one to two HOURS per minute of music. What if that could be a thing of the past? One of the leading members of DIY Light Animation will be on hand to discuss this topic and present some exciting tips for the future of animated lighting. Everything You Wanted to Know About Light Show Pro… and Then Some! Light Show Pro continues to be an exciting option for holiday enthusiasts to sequence and control their animated displays. The Academy has had LSP programmers and high-level users offer their experiences and instruction in the past but for 2012 we’re bumping it up a notch. David Johnson, the creator and owner of Light Show Pro, is preparing multiple classes to teach you everything from the basics to the advanced tips and tricks in this powerful software suite. Bring your laptops and hold on to your thinking cap! The Many Twist of the Helix Light Controller The Helix is a DIY hardware and software system that allows you to create a professional looking synchronized light show at a fraction of the cost of the commercial systems. It is also one of the most advanced DIY light controllers available. The developer of the Helix will be at the Academy to share the history of this unique controller and offer direct insight into how it can enhance your displays. Who better to teach you these things than the man that created it?? Putting it All Together with xlights What is xlights?? It’s simple really: xlights is a cross-platform Christmas light show scheduler built on wxWidgets. It plays Vixen and LOR sequences and is compatible with LOR, D-Light, DMX, Renard, Pixelnet, and E1.31 controllers. Now, if that all sounds like Greek you’re in luck because Matt Brown, developer of xLights and a long time LSH member will be on hand to show you how to download, install, configure, and setup your show in xLights. Bring your questions- let’s play “Stump the Developer!” Building, Programming and Using Smart Strings You have seen them and you really want to use them. But if you have more questions than answers when it comes to Smart Strings then this is the class for you. This session will include demonstartions of all of the standard items you have seen… and some you haven't. We’ll cover how to build them, how to make them work and even how to work them into your show. What’s good? What’s not? This class can help you jump into the world of RGB full control with a lot of the headaches worked out for you. The DLA crew has a lot to show you in this class and you will not want to miss it. What Else? Are there any other topics we’re covering? There’s a lot of other unique and exciting options in the DIY universe and we’ll have more announcements in the coming weeks. Some topics RJ and the rest of the DIY Light Animation team are working to bring you are: The Renard Controller: What You Want to Know The EtherDongle and Conductor: Your New Best Friend Building and Using the Lynx Express Controller Stay tuned to the website (www.theultimateacademy.com) as we have more exciting Academy info to share in the next few weeks. You’ll hear about more DIY offerings, some non-Christmas topic announcements, and a very special opportunity for all those Light-O-Rama users out there! Remember that the ONLY way to get in on the fun is to register today! Don't miss out in 2012. Happy EVERYTHING!
  2. We've heard some comments come up since our announcement last year concerning our inclusion of the DIY Light Animation team in this year’s Academy. While we want to cover those DIY and RGB topics that people want to learn about we will NEVER forget that there are many, many facets of the holidays. The Lone Star Holidays Academy is not about any one small subset of celebrating those festive times of year and those who have attended in the past know that for a fact! That being said, we do recognize why some folks feel we’ve been a bit “DIY heavy” for 2012, just based on the announcements so far. When the Academy was finished last year we were contacted by RJ from DLA and he wanted to be a part of the event in 2012. It just made sense: we already run one of the only annual, multi-day, multi-room event in the United States. We bring in folks from all over the state of Texas and beyond (To date our registrants for this year’s Academy are coming from 15 different states (from California to New York) and TWO countries!). With the popularity of DIY we wanted to offer the best in education for that part of the Academy and with RJ and DLA wanting to be a part of things we felt that was a great opportunity for all of our attendees. This is a win/win for everyone because no one is limited to any one set of classes. DIYers can visit any classes and vice versa- there are no walls at the Academy! So believe us when we tell you that the last thing we want is for people to think the 2012 Lone Star Holidays Academy is all about DIY, because nothing could be further from the truth! We don’t usually do this but because we’re so excited and you want to know what else there is beyond the DIY world we’re going to make three days worth of announcements this week. Today (Wednesday) is the first of those and the announcement of the “Christmas Classic” classes: Where to Start? The Process of Designing Your Display: Every year we have people tell us that they really want a course on where to start. What should they do with their yard? How can they make all of those fancy elements they see online and in person work in their space (and budget!)? We can’t help you with the budget piece, but this class is designed to get you started in determining your own display on your own “canvas”. If you’re new to the game (or bringing someone with you who is just getting into the hobby) this is a great jumping on point! When you leave this session you should be able to select classes to attend for the rest of the Academy weekend that will help you realize your dream. Interactive Displays: How do you handle traffic? The media? A throng of people? Kids running into the display? What kind of skits and/or props can you use to make visitors feel like a part of things? This course will be facilitated by none other than Clyde Dearing of “Invasion of the Christmas Lights 2” and a long-time decorator of LARGE (both in scope and visitors!) residential displays (he was also the first Lone Star Holidays President until the people finally spoke up! ). Clyde will bring his unique experiences and laid back teaching style to this class and help you figure some of those interactive aspects out. Working with Coro: We ran this course for two years (and at two workgroups) but it’s back by popular demand in 2012. Coro continues to be a fantastic way to incorporate an easy-to-work-with material into your display. The versatility and cost of coro allow holiday fanatics to utilize it regardless of experience level. From signs, to shapes to 10 foot tall Nutcrackers, the possibilities of working with coro are endless! Working with Wood Cutouts: Remember the good old days when you would pile into the car with your family and look at lights around the neighborhood? The days before RGB, musical animation, voiceovers, bubbles and fake snow? Remember the house that had the very best cutouts in the yard, illuminated by a bright spotlight that showed off the colors and craftsmanship of each piece? Luckily those elements never go out of style! This course will show you the basics of working with wood and how you can incorporate them into today’s higher tech displays. Filming Your Display: “I want good video of my house but I don’t have the fanciest camera and I don’t know how to make it look good!” We’ve heard that time and time again and we’re going to do something about it. Chris Sims of the Regional Development Committee will be on hand to guide you through the basics of videoing your display. Types of equipment, settings, tips and tricks to help you get the best results possible will all be a part of this session. The Polar Express (Bringing Trains into Your Display): Mechanical movers continue to be a popular element in displays across the country but where do you start with such a technical project? Jack Huitt, a long-time train builder, will be helping you understand the nuances of building and incorporating trains into your display. There won’t be any trips to the North Pole or Tom Hanks portraying the conductor but you can be sure you’ll leave this session with a basic understanding of train building, resources to help you find your materials, and the inspiration to get to work on your own train! Zara Radio 101 and 201 (two classes): Heeee’s baaaack! Chris Backus returns to the Academy to take you through the intricacies of one of the hottest software pieces available to enhance your display: Zara Radio. In 2011 Chris taught one course on this to a standing-room only crowd so it was obvious we had to ask him back in 2012. His only request was that we make sure he has twice as much time and a larger space to cover it all! Want to make your display into a truly comprehensive home radio station? This is the place to start. Please note that you do not need to attend both Zara Radio sessions. As with all Academy classes (except the S3 Experience), there are no pre-requisites or limitations on what you see. You should attend those that you think will benefit you and your displays the most. What Should I Buy? The Rundown on Light-O-Rama Hardware: Light-O-Rama continues to be the hardware option of choice for many, many decorators and we would be remiss to not cover the hardware aspects associated with it. If you’re new to the game and considering Light-O-Rama, this is the place to start. We will cover all of the available options from a hardware standpoint: Pros and cons, ideas for usage, and real-world stories of integration that will help you make an informed decision on your future purchases. Light-O-Rama BS: No, not that kind of BS! We’re talking about the LOR suite Before Sequencing. With all of the software options available for sequencing, Light-O-Rama is still one of the top selling and highly regarded options around. This session will cover some of the basics of the S3 software suite and is a great pre-requisite to Sunday’s "S3 Experience" with Drew Hickman of Holiday Technologies (remember the S3 Experience is an add on to the Academy registrations so be sure to go to the LSH Shopzone and register for it if you plan to attend. Deadline is coming up quickly!). Making Your Own Music (The Basics of Audio Editing): Back by popular demand, Joe Rogers will be on hand providing the knowledge he has acquired from years in the recording industry and residential display building. Using Audacity, Joe will help you understand the program, learn the fundamentals of audio editing, and offer you some real-world best practices on making the music you choose unique to your display. BOOM! (The Elements of a Fireworks Show): This isn’t a “Christmas Classic” but we didn’t have another category for “Things That Can Blow Your Hands Off!” so we’re including it here. We’ve done some Basic Firework classes before, from history to safety to legalities to types of fireworks. We took a year off from this in 2011 but we’re back in time for the 2012 July 4th holiday to show you how to build your fireworks display, fuse it up, and some tips on how to keep things safe and exciting when show time arrives! Make sure to check back tomorrow when we let the (black) cat out of the bag for our next set of classes! It’s so good it’s scary! REGISTER HERE TODAY!
  3. “The LOR classes were great but I really wanted to have a large block dedicated to just sequencing.” “As someone new I would have liked to learn about sequencing from one of the experts.” “Sequencing, sequencing, sequencing!” All of those statements have come from our Academy feedback surveys over the past four years. We’ve approached Light-O-Rama classes from every possible vantage point when using volunteers as instructors. Long time users, professional sequencers, commercial providers… you name it and the Academy has tried it. But after four years we’re going to give people what they want: a full day of sequencing training (including comprehensive review of the newest software version, S3) presented by a recognized leader in Light-O-Rama training: Drew Hickman of Holiday Technologies. Holiday Technologies attended the Academy in 2008 and supported the event through advertising sponsorship in 2009 and 2010 so they know what our event is all about. Drew brings an invaluable amount of real-world expertise to the course and has taught light display and animation courses at locations all across the United States. He has been in the light display business since 1996, creating the very first commercially available hardware (ChristmasCave*) and software (Dasher*) products for music-synchronized displays. Since that time Drew has worked on all types of displays, large and small, commercial and residential, and is a certified LOR instructor. He is sure to share some of his more interesting experiences of being in this business with his students. The majority of class time will be spent teaching people how to use the Light-O-Rama (LOR) S3 software suite. Throughout the session Drew will share his real world experiences and teach shortcuts that will save countless hours of wasted time during the busy time of the decorating season. The course will focus on the sequence editor, building shows, and advanced training, tips and tricks for increasing the speed and quality of your programming. So there you have it, the sequencing solution you’ve asked for. However this is an addition to the Academy, utilizing a professional instructor and because of that it requires a higher registration cost. Your $60 Academy registration isn’t increasing but if you want to attend “The S3 Experience” it will cost an additional $150. Two things to keep in mind with this cost: The $150 cost is a reduction from Holiday Technologies regular pricing. Drew is attending the Academy, and has worked to develop this custom course, because he believes in the event and the people who attend it. We appreciate and respect the fact that this is a business for Holiday Technologies and we ask that our attendees (and potential attendees) do the same. This course requires 12 people to be registered and paid in full by no later than February 29, 2012. If we do not have those numbers there is a possibility that the course will be cancelled (refunds in full will be issued if that occurs, but we believe this will not be necessary). Materials: A comprehensive manual is available for sale for $50 (you will see it in the LSH Shopzone). This manual will cover far more than just the information from the course. Academy attendees who do not register for “The S3 Experience” may also purchase the manual. Delivery of manuals will occur on Day 3 of the Academy. Hours: 9am-4:30pm on Day 3 (June 17th). The class will break during the lunch period. What to bring: Attendees must bring a computer with them that has the Light-O-Rama S3 software already installed. So if you have been looking for the best in Light-O-Rama sequence training this is your opportunity. Head over to the LSH Shopzone and you will see the regular Academy registration for $60 or the Registration WITH the S3 Experience for $210 ($60 + $150)- be sure to select the correct item before checking out (and for those of you who have already registered and would like to have the S3 Experience add-on you will receive information via email on how to handle this). The S3 Experience: Just another aspect that makes the 2012 Academy "Citius, Altius, Fortius". Click the image below for more information or to register today!
  4. Just received a list from Santa RJ, our Academy partner at DIY Light Animation, and we must have been on the "Nice List" this year! Take a look at what the DLA crew has already assembled for Academy 2012 classes: Soldering Basics for EVERYONE “Until a year ago I didn’t even own a soldering iron.” This was made in a recent post by one of our long-time attendees and is a great example of the different levels of knowledge in our shared hobby. We have some of the most creatively technical minds in the holiday industry attend the Academy each year but we also have people in need of a “square one” approach. RJ from DIY Light Animation is coordinating this “workshop-style session to help everyone feel comfortable and open to asking questions. Soldering Advanced Topics When you get beyond the basics and need to further your knowledge base it becomes time to attend a more advanced level class. This session will pick up where “Soldering Basics for EVERYONE” left off and continue the workshop-style teaching approach. Several of the more experienced staff members from DIY Light Animation will be on hand to help show you some advanced techniques and guide you through them. Automated Sequencing: the Easy Button for Animated Displays? Hours upon countless hours have been spent by everyone who animates their displays. Each timing mark must be perfect. Every fade and effect has to hit at just the right moment. Some people estimate that it takes them one to two HOURS per minute of music. What if that could be a thing of the past? One of the leading members of DIY Light Animation will be on hand to discuss this topic and present some exciting tips for the future of animated lighting. Everything You Wanted to Know About Light Show Pro… and Then Some! Light Show Pro continues to be an exciting option for holiday enthusiasts to sequence and control their animated displays. The Academy has had LSP programmers and high-level users offer their experiences and instruction in the past but for 2012 we’re bumping it up a notch. David Johnson, the creator and owner of Light Show Pro, is preparing multiple classes to teach you everything from the basics to the advanced tips and tricks in this powerful software suite. Bring your laptops and hold on to your thinking cap! The Many Twist of the Helix Light Controller The Helix is a DIY hardware and software system that allows you to create a professional looking synchronized light show at a fraction of the cost of the commercial systems. It is also one of the most advanced DIY light controllers available. The developer of the Helix will be at the Academy to share the history of this unique controller and offer direct insight into how it can enhance your displays. Who better to teach you these things than the man that created it?? Putting it All Together with xlights What is xlights?? It’s simple really: xlights is a cross-platform Christmas light show scheduler built on wxWidgets. It plays Vixen and LOR sequences and is compatible with LOR, D-Light, DMX, Renard, Pixelnet, and E1.31 controllers. Now, if that all sounds like Greek you’re in luck because Matt Brown, developer of xLights and a long time LSH member will be on hand to show you how to download, install, configure, and setup your show in xLights. Bring your questions- let’s play “Stump the Developer!” Building, Programming and Using Smart Strings You have seen them and you really want to use them. But if you have more questions than answers when it comes to Smart Strings then this is the class for you. This session will include demonstartions of all of the standard items you have seen… and some you haven't. We’ll cover how to build them, how to make them work and even how to work them into your show. What’s good? What’s not? This class can help you jump into the world of RGB full control with a lot of the headaches worked out for you. The DLA crew has a lot to show you in this class and you will not want to miss it. What Else? Are there any other topics we’re covering? There’s a lot of other unique and exciting options in the DIY universe and we’ll have more announcements in the coming weeks. Some topics RJ and the rest of the DIY Light Animation team are working to bring you are: The Renard Controller: What You Want to Know The EtherDongle and Conductor: Your New Best Friend Building and Using the Lynx Express Controller Stay tuned to the website (www.theultimateacademy.com) as we have more exciting Academy info to share in the next few weeks. You’ll hear about more DIY offerings, some non-Christmas topic announcements, and a very special opportunity for all those Light-O-Rama users out there! Remember that the ONLY way to get in on the fun is to register today! Don't miss out in 2012. Happy EVERYTHING!
  5. It's BAAAAACK... the Academy Early Bird Contest! "Early Bird Registration" is back and you can ensure yourself the best price by registering today! For the fourth year in a row we are offering one free registration made during the "Early Bird" period (from the first day of registration through midnight on Halloween- October 31st). The winner will be chosen using an online random number generator and announced on November 5th. We always take your suggestions and feedback to heart, as it helps make a better event year after year. As a result of your feedback over the last 4 years there will be new instructional topics, teachers of various knowledge levels, a bigger space for this event, and third day of fun added just for you!! Whether you're a DIY-er, an LOR enthusiast, a prop builder, a Santa, a Haunter, or even a Pyro-Maniac there will be something of interest for every level of decorator and holday junkie! Register TODAY and you just might be attending for FREE. But remember, at midnight on October 31st this contest is over and will gone like a Halloween ghost! JOIN IN THE FUN (MAYBE FOR FREE!) BY CLICKING HERE!
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