Manny Duarte, 55, of Middletown, won’t be surprised if he has to pay an extra $500 on his next electric bill.
Duarte hasn’t looked at his electric this holiday season, he said, since powering up the 24,000 LED lights for his holiday light show on display in his front yard (103 Cazier Drive, Middletown), which the public is free to view daily from 5 to 11 p.m., until the final day on Sunday, Jan 1.
His estimated $20,000 light display is so elaborate he uses multiple controllers to operate it, along with software to program his flashing lights so they can be in sync with music. Whether on foot or cruising by in cars, folks within a few blocks of his house can listen to holiday tunes over the radio by tuning into 97.7 FM.
Guests can select visit Duarte’s website (lightsbymanny.remotefalcon.com/remoteFalcon) to select the next song to be played at his light display.
Duarte has 12 songs in his holiday show, including The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree,” Carrie Underwood’s “Away in a Manger” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
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Although the Delaware dad hasn’t seen his light bill this month, he estimates it’ll cost triple what he spent on it last holiday season. That’s back when his electric bill increased by $135 after he introduced his first holiday display, which only featured 7,000 lights.
But Duarte isn’t worried about paying the cost of being the light boss.
“All I care about is I just want people to come and look at it – that’s all,” he said. “I’m not asking for any money from anybody or donations or anything like that. I just want people to come and enjoy the show.”
‘My house is a total disaster’
The Middletown man didn’t have to worry about falling off his roof like poor Clark Griswold from the ‘80s flick “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” because Duarte avoided putting lights on his house.
Instead he has his 24,000 lights mounted on props (such as stars, trees and arches) in front of his home. That includes two huge screens 10-feet high that display images that complement whatever song is playing.
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For example, the music video for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is played on both screens during that tune.
There are four little prop Christmas trees mounted in the yard that sing during that jam, too. Duarte said he synced the lights to the baby trees, using one tree as the lead vocalist and the other three as backup singers.
With thousands of dancing lights synchronized to tunes, along with the two giant video screens, Duarte’s front yard ends up looking sort of like Coachella on Christmas.
There’s even a seven-foot-tall star in front of his house decorated with 2,300 lights, making it single most luminous prop in his yard.
Planning for this ambitious light show began back in March. It takes two months alone for Duarte to move all of his props upstairs from the basement.
“In that time, my house is a total disaster,” he said.
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Why aren’t there lights on the roof?
Duarte is an IT specialist and owns a company named Omnimaven.
He handles everything from running network wires, setting up servers and PCs, wireless networks, phone systems and security cameras.
Programming the lights to sync with his 12 songs takes him between three weeks to eight weeks – for each tune. Duarte also had to create mounts for some of his props, he said, which he designed using a 3D printer.
Right after Halloween, which included a much smaller light display (featuring tombstones and spiders), Duarte mowed his lawn for a final time and then start putting up his Christmas lights.
The 55-year-old said he mostly decorates the yard by himself, except for needing an extra hand to help him lift his two screens, which are adorned in 400 lights apiece.
The reason the Middletown man hung decorations in front of his house instead of on it is because he’s not allowed to. “My wife told me I can pretty much do whatever I want, I just can’t make holes in the house,” he explained.
The Delaware dad said his house has brought extra traffic into his neighborhood, because people want to check out his light display. So in order to avoid upsetting his neighbors, Duarte said his five children (who each have a car) park up the street.
The good thing is he lives on a circle, so it makes it easier for cars to drive by his home without causing a traffic jam, he said.
His neighbors haven’t complained to him about traffic issues, Duarte added.
Can he top his light show in 2022?
Sunday marks the last day of Duarte’s light show, but he’s already thinking about upping the ante for next Christmas.
“One thing I really want to do is add a nativity scene, because that is what Christmas is about. So anything I can do to spread that message, I’d like to do.”
Considering Duarte’s first light show had 7,000 lights, and this year he tripled that, does this mean he’ll have at least 60,000 lights for Christmas in 2022?
“If that happens, I think my wife will kill me.”
Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at firstname.lastname@example.org.