O Holy Lights!!!

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  • The Ackmann family's Christmas light display which dances to four different songs each night at 3808 S. 104th St. in Greenfield.

Click Here to listen to Dan's report on what just may be the best Christmas light display in Southeastern Wisconsin

If you own a computer, chances are you've seen this viral video of electrical engineer Carson Williams' home light display dancing to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter."  Miller Lite did in 2005, and has been using Williams' work in its holiday commercials ever since.

Williams may have some competition in Greenfield's Ackmann family.  Their home at 3808 S. 104th St. in Greenfield is a veritable winter wonderland of dancing lights.

 "We just decided to take our Christmas light display a little further this year," said University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student Andrew Ackmann in what may be the understatement of the year.  "We've got about 16,000 lights."

And every one of them is synchronized to four different songs.

There's "Wizards in Winter" (of course): 

And the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve Sarajevo": 

The Ackmanns also have two different versions of "Carol of the Bells"; one by David Foster: 

And another by Monique Danielle:

 

"We started preparing these in the middle of summer," Andrew explained.  "We'd just buy lights here and there and right when they really started coming out in stores we hit them up and just went nuts."

Again, perhaps an understatement.

"It took a lot of time to set up.  I had to go through and program each song and each one took about six hours."

Finding the hardware and software he used to program those songs, though, was easy thanks to Light-O-Rama, a company that specializes in what its website calls "user-programmable light controllers" that can be used to "create moving light effects in any environment."

Andrew also had some help from his family.

"I'm just the laborer," his father Dan Ackmann said with a laugh.  "My wife was in on it, too, in the planning and telling us what to do.  She was sort of like the supervisor, but Andrew was definitely the brains of the operation!"

With Andrew at school and Dan working third shift, they were often, as Dan put it, "like ships in the night" until they started working on their display.

"It was a lot of fun," Dan said.  "I think it was really neat because you usually don't get to do stuff like this that much when the kids get older.  Andrew's in college now and we don't always see that much of each other."

Except when they were working, and now each night from 5 until 10 pm their community can enjoy the fruits of their labor every 15 minutes.  To avoid driving their neighbors crazy, the Ackmanns bought a low-power radio transmitter that allows spectators to hear the music right in their car stereos.

"I looked on the internet to find out which radio stations were the farthest away and picked one that wouldn't interfere with any broadcasts around here," Andrew explained, adding that he settled on 92.7 FM...not, say, 630 AM.  "Oh yeah, I wouldn't dream of doing that to you guys!"

As for the neighbors, Dan says they love it.

"We were worried about it at first and that's why restricted the hours.  They can't hear any noise, but there's a lot of lights flashing and everything.  They love it, though, one of them even called us up and said it made their Christmas."

The Ackmanns' Christmas, too.  So much so, in fact, that Andrew is already planning an encore.

"Oh yeah, we're going to hit the after-Christmas sales and we're definitely thinking about stuff for next year already."