Lights on Wakefield Delight and Profit Local Charities
Jan 04, 2016 03:25PM
● By Bryan Scott
By Mylinda LeGrande
West Valley - When Robbie Gowers was growing up, he always dreamed of having the type of decorated Christmas house that everyone would want to come and see. Ironically, several years later when he and his wife, Bree, first moved into their home, his wife wanted him to hang lights for Christmas. He said that he “fought her tooth and nail.”
The next year he didn’t put up any house lights at all. It wasn’t until a friendly neighborhood competition the following year that got him interested in putting up lights again.
“It got very out of control. That year we had 10,000 lights. The next year I began the animated part of it (computer controlled) and to keep positive actions, we added in a charity into the mix. It was a big success and a very big learning year,” he said.
The Gowers began to have a huge following of people that would come out to the display every year, as well as on social media. These factors helped to gain the interest of a world-renowned decorator who got in contact with him to help him on a few projects. Gowers explained how the light display hobby snowballed into a full-time endeavor during the winter season. He has been putting lights up now for nine years, four of them with the computer programming.
“That season I traveled as far as South Korea to build a display. I gained a much bigger knowledge for the next Christmas, adding more [work] to mine. I also got involved with several other displays in the state, including Valley Fair Mall, Christensen and Hymas Law Firm and Fiber Net located in Orem. I then found myself in Argentina building another display there,” he said.
That year the Gowers started taking donations at their house display for a young girl that was battling brain cancer. Gowers said that it was a joy to be able to help that family with Christmas gifts, medical bills and more. He indicated that last year was their biggest and best display, as it grew to have over 50,000 lights.
They are now using their donations for two different local charities, Children and the Earth, and The Mascot Miracles foundation. Both help children battle cancer and other serious medical conditions.
In addition to his personal home light display, he collaborated with another commercial light display company, which will have his name on it. They built a drive-thru Christmas display on land leased from Kearns Oquirrh Park Recreation Center, which featured just under a million lights.
“It is a passion, a serious addiction. Some are addicted to pills; I’m addicted to lights. Christmas lights are a very big love for me, and using them to help others is such a joy for my family. It’s a nonstop hobby that never stops through the year, and I depend on a very patient wife,” Gowers said.
During the fall, he spends his days professionally decorating houses and businesses, and then after dinner in his free time, he works on decorating his own house until early in the morning. He started building his house display early in October and finished in time for lights-on the day after Thanksgiving.
It takes 200 man-hours to complete the projects. He said that his neighbors have been great helping him with the light display and cooperating with the heavy traffic flow during the month of December. The display had its last day on New Years Eve. He hasn’t had too many problems with the display, with two exceptions. The first year someone slashed the new inflatable snowman, and last year he fell from his man-made tree, but miraculously escaped injury.
The house featured 52,000 lights that are completely computer controlled, and it took over a mile and a half of extension cords to power the display. Nine different songs ran continuously that are broadcast over a car’s radio at 87.9 FM. He added professional voiceovers in between each song so the music sounded like it was coming from an actual radio station. He usesd Light-O-Rama computer software, which allowed him to program each of the 176,000 elements that were part of the display.
For each minute of music played, it represents 10 hours of work that it took to program the lights of the display. The computer program controlled when each individual light turned on and off, and also its brightness. He explained how he had to wire every single part of his display not just with one strand, but one strand with each of the three primary colors.
To add to his display, he has also built a “mega tree,” which stood 23-feet tall. That feature alone had 15,000 lights on it. His display also featured a 20-foot inflatable, fondly named “Betty The Snow Woman,” that took one year for a company to fabricate.
The power supply was maxed out for Gowers’ house. He hasn’t had to add any extra electrical control panels yet, but the family must be careful not to run large appliances during the display or else risk blowing the house power circuits and ruining the expensive equipment that run the lights. His power bill quadrupled for the month of December.
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus visited on most weekends at the house display, along with several local team mascots. Together with the Gowers, they handed out several thousand candy canes each Christmas season to people visiting the display.
The home is located at 6388 South Wakefield Way (5885 West). The display ran from Nov. 28 through Dec. 31