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Meet the Holiday Home-Glower


In the past few years Nicholas Watkins has more than doubled the number of lights in his display. Now he hopes the added cheer can also draw more donations to Riley Children's Foundation & Riley Hospital for Children. He dedicates his cheery lights, dubbed "Lights for Riley," to the charity, and to his wife and two children, Joey and Ethan.

Our interview with Nicholas Watkins:

First, the two questions everyone asks: Approximately how many lights are in your display? And how long does it take you to put them up?

Nicholas: Over the past few years we have continued to increase the size of our display. This year we are maintaining our size at just over 100,000 bulbs, however we are introducing more LED lighting into the mix. This lighting is RGB LED lighting that allows us to create over 16.7 million colors out of a single bulb. We're using these in our flood lighting this year, and you'll see the house lit up in a mirage of colors, other than the traditional white, red, and green! This year has been our biggest year for maintenance yet. It took a little over a month at several hours a day to complete the display set up this year.

How many years having you been putting up your display? How did it become a tradition?

Nicholas: We started decorating our home in 2005. For five years we slowly added to a static display, with 2009 being our biggest static year at 7,500 lights. In 2010, we made the iconic jump to 160 channels of computer-controlled lighting, using Light-O-Rama. In 2011, we nearly doubled our circuit output, featuring 256 channels and over 100,000 bulbs. Our display has been a family and friends tradition since 2005, and the Lights For Riley tradition [since] 2010.

What's your favorite part of your display or what are you most proud of?

Nicholas: Since we doubled our size in 2011, we thought about taking a different approach in 2012. We refined a lot of elements and are working toward a more elegant display. The Riley Mega Tree is certainly our most impressive piece, it also just so happens to be the centerpiece to our display! In 2010, our Mega Tree was undoubtedly our most impressive feature with three colors and 10,000 lights. In 2011, our Mega Tree wasn't just a Mega Tree anymore. It was what we now like to call the "Riley Tree 1.0." It featured the red tree as a normal 1/2 tree spin, a stacking green, and a 360-degree white combination. Unique in itself, we decided to expand on that feature and change the white to a spiral configuration [in] 2012. This spiral and the entire "Riley Mega Tree 2.0" is well, unique. We think it really stands out!

If you were to dedicate your display to anyone or thank anyone, who would it be?

Nicholas: Well, there are several people to thank, but we always dedicate our display to Riley Hospital for Children. I thank my wife for putting up with my "hobby" (there's a cough and the word "obsession" leaks out, then another cough) over lights (To decorate with 100,000 lights you have to be a little nuts!), the expensive hobby (yes, it can get very expensive), and the time consuming nature of the hobby. Thank you, my love.

And then there are two more... I have to thank the inspiration for our display from our children, Joey and Ethan, and from the videos of all the other animated light displays before us, specially noting Richard Holdman's display as well as Carson Williams' "Wizards in Winter" display.

Do you support any charity with your display?

Nicholas: Our light display is dedicated to Riley Hospital for Children, and as such we collect donations for Riley. Over the past two years we have collected over $7,000 in donations for Riley Hospital. This year our goal is $5,000, and, with a healthy start already, we think we can make it!

And just for fun... What's your favorite holiday movie and song?

Nicholas: My family and I's favorite holiday movie is the original black-and-white, 'It's a Wonderful Life'. My family and I's favorite holiday song is debated on in the family, but Dad likes Nat King Cole "The Christmas Song"; Mom, Dean Martin "Let it Snow"; Joey and Ethan, Gayla Peevey "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas".

Is there any one celebrity you would like to meet?

Nicholas: We'd like to meet Dave Matthews. Dave is a supporter of many good charitable organizations as well as Farm Aid; not to mention the lead of one of the best jam bands ever.