by DREW HOWARD
Downtown Rochester’s Big, Bright Light Show has some serious competition, and it comes from a residential home light show run by a single local firefighter.
Brent Waldrep has been decorating his home with thousands of Christmas lights every year since 2008, and spends hours each season programming them to dance to the beat of holiday music found on 91.3 FM. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to drive up to the home and enjoy the show for themselves, which is located at 3111 Paramount Lane in Auburn Hills.
Waldrep doesn’t decorate just for the sake of having the most festive looking home in the neighborhood, though. Instead, he uses the show to benefit terminally ill children through a donation box that goes toward funding Michigan-based charity The Rainbow Connection.
“The Rainbow Connection grants wishes and dreams for Michigan children with terminally ill diseases,” Waldrep said. “These kids all have a wish, and whatever the case may be The Rainbow Connection makes it happen.”
“Every year we’ve sent people to Disney World,” he added. “One year there was a kid who was into WWE, so The Rainbow Connection sent him to Joe Louis Arena to meet the wrestlers.”
“Our Dancing Lights” has collected over $20,000 for The Rainbow Connection since it began, with last year’s show bringing in just over $3,500. Waldrep said he’s hoping to collect a record amount of donations by the time this year’s show ends on Saturday, January 6.
“On average, I collect $4,000 to $5,000 in donations each year,” Waldrep said. “Donations have been through the roof this year – right now we’re expecting a huge crowd over the holiday and new year. I would like to get to $10,000. I might be a little shy, but that’s my goal.”
Waldrep admits that he didn’t initially plan on using the light show as a means to donate to charity.
“Several years ago I started watching these web videos of people setting up lights to music – I did research and wanted to do it myself,” he said. “It worked great the first year, and shortly after that I realized I had a captive audience who weren’t just quickly driving by. I wanted to tie this into a charity, and so I reached out to The Rainbow Connection to see if they were interested.”
According to the “Our Dancing Lights” website, the light show utilizes well over one mile of extension cords alone. The site’s fact sheet also reveals that the show uses 31.01 amps and 3,678 watts, while the total number of lights are “too many to count.”
Waldrep said there’s one aspect of the project that takes a significantly longer amount of time to achieve.
“Installing the lights is the easy part – that takes about a month to get done by Thanksgiving,” he said. “It’s the programming of the songs that’s hard. It takes eight hours to do one minute of music. I work on that year round.”
“Our Dancing Lights” has been such a hit that The Rainbow Connection sends volunteers to help direct traffic on busy nights. Visitors will only have time to watch the show for a couple songs when traffic is heavy, AKA the weekend, so Waldrep encourages people to visit the show in the middle of the week if they’re looking to stay longer.
“Our Dancing Lights” runs from 5 – 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 – 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Waldrep asks that visitors respect his neighbors and stay in their vehicles while watching the show.
Donations for The Rainbow Connection are accepted in the forms of cash and checks. For more information about “Our Dancing Lights,” visit ourdancinglights.com.