In love with Christmas lights

Original Source: In love with Christmas lights

Photo by Travis Bean

As dusk descends on Waverly this holiday season, one home shines bright at night.

Illuminated leaping arches, shining shooting stars and a 4,800-Christmas-light megatree usher in the spirit at the corner of First Street and Eliasen Avenue. These are just a few of the features in a resplendent neighborhood yard, which people annually flock to see between Thanksgiving and the New Year. And who would spend the 96 hours it takes to decorate over 40,000 Christmas lights all over the yard and the home? One man who is really, really in love with Christmas lights.

“I just love Christmas,” said John Wiechmann, who sets up the light display each year. “We love this time of year.” Wiechmann, who enlists the help of several others, including his wife, Kendra, calls his display Waverly Lights.

The owner of Waverly’s Domino’s Pizza has been steadily building his decorating résumé for 27 years. But recently, he realized how his exceptional exhibit could give back to others. He then decided to open up a donation box in front of his winter wonderland, of which all proceeds go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. “When we first started setting up, I always said we would never ask for donations,” Wiechmann said. “We do it because we love the season. But there are organizations that need money, and St. Jude’s is one of Domino’s Pizza’s big fundraisers, so we incorporated that into it.” When Wiechmann first moved to Waverly years ago, he brought his tens of thousands of lights with him, loaded into a 24-foot truck and two 12-foot trailers. Formerly known as the Wiechmann Wonderland (“Nobody knew how to spell our last name,” Wiechmann said), Waverly Lights has become not just a fundrasier for children in need, but a dazzling display for families traveling far and wide to witness the light-and-music show.

Wiechmann said upwards of 25 cars will line up on the street to see the show, which is currently running every day until New Year’s Day, from 5 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 5 to 11 p.m. on weekends.

“But, it never fails, somebody will come by at 11:30 p.m. and knock,” he said. “They drove from out of town and the lights are out, and we’ll have to turn the lights back on for them and play a couple songs.”

In November, Wiechmann cannot make plans because all his extra time goes towards constructing Waverly Lights. Last year, he and his crew were able to get done five days early, but this year, due to the cold, he ended up decorating right up until the last minute.

Wiechmann’s youngest son, Zach, perhaps makes the biggest contribution to Waverly Lights. Thanks to him, not only does the Wiechmann home flash green and red at night, but the lights are also synchronized with Christmas music from such famous bands such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra. “We’ve been so busy at the store, I didn’t have any time this summer to program songs,” Wiechmann said, noting Zach has done all the musical work for this year. “You’re spending 15 hours programming a song that last 3 minutes. It’s quite the task.”

Wiechmann said he powers the light show through his garage, and that, contrary to what many may believe, the annual event doesn’t run up his electricity bill significantly. “All of the lights are rarely on at the same time,” he said. “For each note of the song, either the green ones are on or the red ones are on. They alternate, so our utility bills hardly go up at all. It used to be $1,000 back in the day when we had 40-watt lamps and they’d burn for six hours. Those were the good ole days.”

Regardless of the cost, Wiechmann said his love of Christmas and the opportunity to help others will continue to fuel his holiday spirit — and light up his home. “When you see the families drive by, you see the kids smile, it all makes it worthwhile,” he said.

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