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Christmas tree display is a wonder

By Staff | Dec 24, 2014

This 19 foot LED?Christmas Tree display, complete with the syncronized music of 22 holiday songs is located along Rt. 2 in Sistersville and can be seen and heard every night until the New Year.

There are Christmas light displays . . . and then there are Christmas light displays.

Some folks put up thousands and thousands of lights, outline their homes and cover as much of their property as possible with twinkling lights and animated holiday characters. Others adorn their roof and yards with life-sized Santas; and yet others stick to the “reason for the season” and build elaborate Nativity scenes. Gene Rice of Sistersville focused all his attention, on a tree.

Standing at 17 feet tall with a two-foot tall star, Rice’s 19 foot LED Christmas tree situated right along state Route 2 has become one of the most popular Christmas displays in the area. Complete with holiday music, the synchronized light show is one to be seen-and heard.

Always one to “go all out” to decorate for the Christmas holiday with lights and several animated figures in his yard for children, residents, and passersby to enjoy, Rice began searching for a way to put a Christmas light display together that would sync music with the lights. While searching the internet, he came across Wow light controllers, and this is his first year with this type of tree.

“I thought that if I added all my other lights with the current display that it would take away the effects of the new tree on its maiden voyage,” he said. “Last year I displayed my lights using a 16 channel controller. This came with software that would allow me to add a musical sequence with my lights. Every year I would add something new to my light show. It had to be something that I had not seen in the area.”

This tree, is definitely something new.

Exactly what is it and how does it work? After spending countless hours at his computer syncing the lighting system with selected music, Rice can give the explanation in his sleep.

“Originally, the tree was designed by a gentleman who invented and perfected the special light strip which is called: CCR, which stands for Cosmic Color Ribbon. These ribbons, or light strips, consist of 50 LED lights, or light emitting diodes. Each light contains three color diodes, red, green, and blue (RGBs). When you increase or decrease intensities of each diode you can make a different color. Each string of lights has a main controller and within that there are 150 mini controllers which communicate with each diode. Twelve strings of lights consist of making the main frame of the Christmas tree, excluding the star. Each string runs on 12 volts of electricity. The entire 12 strings of lights have a total of 90,000 controllers that a laptop computer sends commands.”

The star he constructed himself, has six concentric (larger to smaller, one inside the other) stars. These stars are controlled by the 16 channel main controller. They mainly are used to signify the beat of the song. The star itself has six strings of lights.

“Planning is just a small part of putting on a show like this,” he said. “It takes a lot of collaboration with specialist to teach you how to put your ideas to light. The short cut would be to spend about $150 per song and hire someone to do the design work. If you were going to do a two- or three-song show, this would be the way to go.”

Rice selected a total of 22 songs to sequence for the Christmas Tree, which allows for a unique 90-minute show.

“I went online and watched a lot of the Christmas displays that other people have done and picked some of these and others I picked that would be geared more to a family show. I tried to choose songs that covered all generations. However, my own personal favorites are music by Trans Siberian Orchestra-good rhythms and beats.”

A show like this would take about 400 man hours of computer design.

“Last year I also included transmitting my music to radio so when foul weather was happening, families could sit in their cars and still be able to watch the show,” said Rice.

While parked snug and warm in their cars, families can turn their car radios to 90.5 FM and experience the entire sights and sound of this unique Christmas display.

Without a doubt, he said, the most difficult part of putting this display together was to be able to think outside the box. “Resources and research,” he said, was the key.

“This show is history, the implementation for next year is in the works. Just remember a lot of my display area went to Family Dollar parking lot. I won’t throw out a bunch of lights without some sort of method to my madness. I know the kids look forward to this every year.”

Rice said the main reason he spends so much time and money on his Christmas displays is simply that he feels his family has been blessed, and that blessing was meant to be shared with others. “This is a magical time of the year,” he said. “I hope that through the visions of these lights, children young and old might see a miracle, or find hope. My son is my wife’s and my miracle. Our blessings should be shared.”

“Blessings happen everyday and people should be thankful. It could be worse! In my travels I have seen the good and the bad of people’s lives and I know my family has been truly blessed!”

The Christmas Tree light display show will continue through New Year’s Day and runs from 5-9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the tree is lit up from 5-10:30 p.m.