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Mapping a holiday pastime

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Light displays around Newberg easier to find with city guide


Looking for Christmas light displays in Newberg? There’s a map for that.

The Local Holiday Lights map was envisioned by Newberg Public Library employee K’Lyn Hann, who enjoys checking out the local light displays with her family each Christmas.

A few years back she and her children had gone out driving around the neighborhoods, looking for houses with light shows. At about the same time the library staff had been given a presentation from the city’s GIS staff, which sparked an idea for Hann: what if the city could use that technology to create an interactive and updated map of Christmas light shows around the city?GARY ALLEN - Night lights - Matt Ross has been intricately decorating his family's house at the corner of Lilly Court and Wynooski Road for about four years. His is one of many to appear on the Newberg Public Library's map of light displays citywide, which the city has maintained for the past few Christmas seasons since K'Lyn Hann thought of the idea.

A few conversations with city personnel and the idea was in the works on the library’s website.

“It just takes a few minutes to set it up each season and it’s ready to go,” library director Leah Griffith said.

Now it’s been going for three Christmas seasons and has started to catch on as more people learn about the feature.

“There was definitely a huge growth in the number in the last couple years to this year,” Hann said. “When I put it on social media, on Facebook, a lot of people got wind of it.”

The map has become densely populated this year with hundreds of markers dotting the city’s neighborhoods. Still, a majority of the markers are manually entered by Hann and her coworkers at the library. Homeowners with light displays are encouraged to use the directions on the library website to list their own addresses on the map, making it a more comprehensive guide to the lights in town.

The map is especially useful for houses that put a lot of effort into a light display, but are located on a cul-de-sac or a dead end and don’t get a lot of drive-by traffic unless people already know they’re there, Griffith said.

Some of the retirement homes in the area have also utilized the map to plan trips to see light displays.

“You kind of need to know where you’re going, especially in a bus,” Griffith noted.

One of the common destinations, and one of the first houses to add its address to the map when it started, is located at 1601 Lilly Court at its intersection with Wynooski Road.

Matt Ross got into the light display scene after seeing a wild Christmas light display on TV. Intrigued, he started looking into the different equipment people used in their shows and eventually purchased his first light controller.

“It kind of blossomed from there,” he said.

This year he and his family started putting up Christmas lights in mid-October and have erected an estimated 25,000 lights since then. That’s a little down from years past, in part due to the heavy rains.

But while the light count is slightly smaller, the show has expanded over the past four years to the point where Ross has 144 different items in the display that can flash on and off, twinkle or fade out.

Coordinating all the pieces so they flow in a cohesive show requires a great deal time spent programming.

“You break down the display into fractions of a second,” Ross said. “I use a tenth of a second timing, every tenth of a second I have 144 decisions to make of what turns on and off.”

Just how much time goes into planning a display?

“Some of my songs have taken 50 to 60 hours,” Ross said. “I’ve taken hours on 10 seconds.”

He selects a soundtrack and sets the whole display to music, which visitors can listen to either on audio speakers at the house or, if they’re not turned on, by tuning to 90.1 FM.

The Rosses’ light display generally runs in the evenings beginning at 4:30 or 5 p.m. This year the schedule has been a bit sporadic given the heavy rains shorting out circuits, but Ross has kept fans updated on the Facebook page for the display, called Rainy Oregon Christmas.

The show also incorporates a charitable element.

“Traditionally Christmas lighters provide an opportunity for people to give back to the community,” Ross said, explaining that light shows generally don’t accept money for the displays due to copyright issues.

This year Ross selected C.S. Lewis Academy as the beneficiary, as his kids attend school there and it’s directly across the street from their house. A donation box is located onsite at the light display.

The display will run through the evening of New Year’s Day, when it shuts off until the following Thanksgiving.

To view the library’s map of light displays around Newberg, or to add your own address to the map, visit http://goo.gl/cqIg3R.